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County to lay off nine employees

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The county will lay off nine employees due to budget cuts, according to Chairman Kathy Morgan.

In addition, two positions that are vacant will not be filled and one employee will have reduced hours. A list of positions and departments affected is expected to be released to the public today after employees have been notified.

Commissioners approved Tuesday evening a budget of $44,248,176, keeping the millage rate at 10.91 mills.

The 2011 tax digest has declined by more than $2 million since last year and nearly $4 million since 2009.

During a public hearing prior to the budget approval, resident Bill Hooson, husband of Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hooson, criticized commissioners for holding fast to the current millage rate.

"The millage rate should float based on the tax digest. If there is growth, (the millage) should go down. If it's declining, it should go up," he said.

Hooson said the millage rate was kept artificially high during years of heavy growth. The county's millage rate was at 9.73 for a decade before the 10.91 rate was adopted last fiscal year.

He said the impact on property taxes would be small if the millage was increased, noting that his property taxes were 21 percent less in 2010 than in 2009. If the millage rate was increased to the rollback rate of 12.12, Hooson said his taxes would increase to the same level they were in 2009.

"The millage rate should be pure mathematics and outside of politics," he said.

Commissioner J.C. Henderson was the only opponent to the budget, saying he does not believe the sheriff's office is receiving enough to operate. The sheriff's office is being funded at the same level as last year on the law enforcement side, and is receiving $500,000 in additional funds for the correctional portion to account for increased costs in food and medical care and to hire four more employees. The sheriff's budget totals $18,035,543.

In related news, commissioners agreed to take out a tax anticipation note for $1.4 million in order for the county to continue to operate over the next few months. The note will be taken out with J.P. Morgan Chase, the low bidder, at an interest rate of 0.94 percent.

The revenue stream is low until property tax collections start coming in around October, but despite the decreased revenue, the county must still meet monthly expenses, most importantly payroll, Administrative Officer John Middleton said.

The note must be paid by the end of the year. Middleton said as taxes roll in, it's likely it will be paid off before Dec. 31.