Newborn to pay fire tax to county

NEWBORN - The check is in the mail. Newton County should soon be getting a payment from Newborn to help cover maintenance and operation costs for Fire Station No. 6.

The Newborn Town Council has once again approved a contract requiring the town to pay its fire insurance premium tax to Newton County to go toward the station, located on Ga. Highway 213.

The contract was first approved in December 2006, and the county expected to receive payment the following year.

But the council backed out, and the county has yet to receive the money.

However, following approval of the contract at the council's March 16 meeting and review by Town Attorney Joe Reitman, a check for $29,103.47 will be mailed to Newton County. The check was expected to be mailed today, according to the town clerk.

The town entered into a contract with the county and city of Mansfield in 2006 committing its annual insurance premium tax to maintenance and operations of the fire station. But council members later said they approved the contract under pressure from the county and Newborn residents and wanted to use the money for other purposes.

In April, the council voted not to pay an invoice from Newton County for $28,443 because the last insurance premium tax disbursement the town received in late 2007 covered collections for the year 2006, predating the town's agreement with the county, Councilwoman Suzanne Bean previously told the Citizen.

"Members of the council felt like that particular period of the insurance premium tax should not have been designated to go to the fire station because it served a year that had nothing to do with the new fire station. We had a volunteer fire station (in 2006)," she said.

The check that will now be paid to the county was received in October, and covers the year 2007.

Newborn officials later said the contract was not binding because it had not been signed by Reitman.

The town has a policy that the attorney is to review all contracts prior to signing, but Reitman said he did not review the final contract for the fire station, adding that it must have been approved at a meeting he did not attend. Reitman said the town cannot afford to pay him to attend every meeting.

He said the delay in signing the contract and sending the check was primarily due to the time it took him to review and give comments and advice to the council.

Newton County Administrative Officer John Middleton said the shortfall of Newborn funds is being made up through county coffers.

"The Chairman has spoken with one of the Newborn (Town) Council members regarding this, but the County has not received any official correspondence from the (town) of Newborn," he said of the council's recent decision to make payment.

Middleton said the city of Mansfield is current on its payments, having made two since the contract was signed.

Insurance premium taxes are collected by the state on insurance premiums sold within a district, a percentage of which is disbursed to local governments.

Newborn and Mansfield also pay a fire district tax, previously used to fund volunteer fire services. That money is now also earmarked to fund station operations.

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