Thank you to Eric Buchanan, Hawkins County Finance Director, and to the Hawkins County Commission for approving a TRUE balanced budget on behalf of the taxpayers of Hawkins County. A budget without use of a penny of fund balance, no property tax increase, and a proposed “rainy day” fund balance of $5.9 million. The citizens of Hawkins County have a fund balance equal to 33% of general fund expenditures.

The 2019-2020 budget is right in the sweet spot of where we need to be and the words of the late Commissioner Virgil Mallet rings in our ears … “protect the fund balance”.

This budget provides a few targeted benchmarks that can be used to monitor our progress over the next three years. Now that we have some concrete benchmarks we will spend the next several months developing a Financial Planning Guide. This will assist in locating specific data to help pinpoint areas of potential weakness and guide future commissioners in expediting the learning curve of county finance. Passing a good budget is not an end to the 105 days of budget planning, but the start to 365 days of continual improvement.

Our current fund balance should not prompt a slash and burn tactic to cut revenue. We do not want to repeat the errors of 2011, the effects of which came to a head in 2015. Potential deficit spending in Solid Waste and a forced deficit spend on the Board of Education are revenue side matters of concern. By year’s end we hope to have measurable data to speculate increased local revenues available from the online local option sales tax. These increased dollars should help offset some potential deficits in those areas.

Mr. Buchanan, Mayor Lee and his staff, the County Commission, Department Heads and Team Members of our county government are commended on the good stewardship and service they provide the citizens of Hawkins County. As Budget Committee Chair, I stand behind the budget approved by this commission. I am willing to personally accept the disdain of those who disapprove, as I know the hours invested by this team have been with hearts of true public servants.

Thank you for your efforts.

(John Metz is a member of the Hawkins Co. Commission, serving District Five. He is Chair of the Commission’s Budget and Finance Committee, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, and Chair Pro-Tempore of the Commission.)