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County will get grant for homestead relief

COVINGTON - Newton County will receive its share of the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant for 2008, Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Kathy Morgan said Wednesday.

Morgan said the county's portion - $1.8 million - should be distributed by next week.

Despite cutting it from the budget in August, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed legislation on Feb. 17 funneling $428 million into the grant. Even as he signed the bill, Perdue called it "ineffective" in keeping property taxes down. An infusion of cash from the federal stimulus package will help pay for the grant.

In effect since 1999, the grant provides an additional state-funded tax credit to homeowners that is reimbursed to local governments by the Department of Revenue. The tax break is worth about $200 to $300 per household.

All told, entities in Newton County will receive nearly $5.7 million, according to Tax Commissioner Barbara Dingler.

In addition to the $1.8 million that will go to the county, the school system will receive $3.3 million; the city of Covington will receive $132,371; Oxford will get $15,350 and the town of Newborn will receive $2,375.

Allocations will also go to the hospital maintenance and operations fund, EMS and the fire districts.

The governments of Mansfield and Porterdale collect their own taxes, which do not come through the Tax Commissioner's Office, Dingler said.

Even though cities don't give homestead exemptions, they are reimbursed a small amount in an effort to keep taxes down, she said.

Dingler said the reimbursements are for the 2008 tax bills that have already been paid and were already budgeted by local governments, so it's not extra money in the hand.

Lawmakers have said that in the future, the grant will be contingent upon the state's economic health.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.