Newton GOP hosts tax rally

COVINGTON - The Newton County Republican Party is hosting a rally tonight at 6 p.m. on the Square to oppose a potential property tax increase.

The rally will take place prior to the Board of Commissioners' budget work session, scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Newton County Historic Courthouse.

"It's open to any taxpayer opposed to a tax increase," said Elizabeth Christian, first vice chair of the Republican Party. "It's going to be a peaceful rally similarly to the Tea Party in Atlanta in opposition to the tax increases proposed by the county."

State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, is slated to speak.

"I think it's important that everybody opposed to raising property taxes get involved," he said. "I'm getting involved as a private citizen, not as a state senator. I hope we'll be able to convey to county commissioners the alternatives to raising taxes."

Commissioners are considering raising the millage rate from the current 9.73 mills to either 10 or 10.308 mills to make up a nearly $5 million budget shortfall. Depending on how the millage is set, employee layoffs could be as low as eight or as high as 62.

The Republican Party also opposes any layoffs of public safety personnel, Christian said.

Commissioners spent four and a half hours last week in an attempt to balance the budget, but could not reach a consensus. The millage rate must be set and budget approved by June 30 in order for the county to collect property taxes in 2010.

Douglas said the county needs to follow the state's lead in cutting out unnecessary projects. The state trimmed $3.3 billion from its budget, including $6 million in pork.

"They've still got pork in this budget. There are a number of things they could cut out to get closer to getting balanced," he said.

Douglas declined to name specific projects, but said, "There are some projects in commission districts they could live without in a tough time."