Rollback millage approved

COVINGTON -- County commissioners approved the rollback millage rate of 10.91 Tuesday night.

The vote was a necessary follow-up to the board's decision two weeks ago to adopt a $46.3 million budget based on the rollback rate. The millage rate could not be approved at that time because the previous rate of 9.73 mills had been advertised. The county was required to readvertise the millage and hold an additional public hearing before passing the rollback rate.

The vote to approve the rollback rate was 3-2, with the opposing votes coming from Commissioners Mort Ewing and Tim Fleming, who also were in opposition to the budget.

Including the hospital indigent fund, emergency medical services and the state of Georgia millage rate, the total county millage rate is 12.811. The fire district millage rate for the unincorporated county, Mansfield, Newborn and Porterdale is an additional 0.792 mills.

According to the 2010 tax digest, total property taxes levied under the rollback rate will be $25,810,403. That's a nearly $1.9 million reduction from last year.

The rollback rate allowed cuts to the Sheriff's Office, court system and Tax Commissioners Office to be reduced from 14 percent to 5 percent.

Adoption of the rollback rate is expected to reduce the number of county employees to be laid off by about half, from approximately 100 to 50. Twenty-nine employees have been laid off since the budget was adopted, based on a list provided by the county to the Citizen. The county is still waiting on a list from Sheriff Ezell Brown on affected employees in his department.

Commissioner J.C. Henderson complained during Tuesday's meeting that he was not given a list of employees who would be laid off before they occurred. He said a majority vote from commissioners is needed to determine which employees will be laid off.

However, Jenny Carter with the County Attorney's Office said the county charter says hiring and firing is up to the chair and can be presented to the board after the fact. The charter says if two commissioners object to those decisions, they can bring them back before the board for reconsideration, she said.

Henderson also complained that some employees were given raises to assume extra duties following the layoffs.

According to Morgan, former senior planner Scott Sirotkin has been promoted to director of the newly created Department of Developmental Services, which will encompass planning, zoning, code enforcement, GIS, permits, inspections, environmental sciences and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program. Lynn Parham, formerly the director of the county's GIS program, was promoted to deputy director.

"Both were compensated for the additional duties required for the position. We do not comment on individual compensation. These were discussed with the commissioners in executive session prior to the budget vote in our meeting of June 16, 2010. All questions were answered at that time," Morgan said. "I am sorry Mr. Henderson does not recollect this discussion. The adjustments were included in the budget."

Morgan previously told the Citizen the consolidation of the various departments was an effort to "streamline the process and coordinate activities between departments."