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New tax digest numbers change rollback rate

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- County officials have reduced the projected rollback millage rate based on new information regarding the tax digest.

Previously, officials put the estimated rollback rate at 12.12 mills. The new projection is 11.727 mills, said Administrative Officer John Middleton.

The new projection is based on news from Chief Appraiser Tommy Knight that the tax digest decline may be less than expected. Middleton said the digest is expected to be about 8 percent short versus the 10 percent initially projected.

"These are revised estimates based on better information," BOC Chairman Kathy Morgan said.

Commissioners now have the choice of whether to adopt the rollback rate or maintain the current rate of 10.91 mills, which Morgan has said could result in layoffs of as many as 80 employees, or find another option.

At a work session Monday night, Commissioner Nancy Schulz urged the board to consider carefully before implementing previously discussed library user fees, citing a letter she received courtesy of Lois Upham, director of the Library Board of Trustees, from the state librarian. The letter states that if the library is funded at a lower level than the prior year, the county would not be eligible for state and federal funding.

The library receives more than $300,000 in grants from state and federal sources annually.

"I think we need to think long and hard whether if by charging fees we're going to be cutting off valuable funding for our library," she said.

Commissioners are also considering whether to change the county's health insurance. If the county were to remain with Cigna with no plan changes, the cost will increase 27 percent. Going with another carrier or eliminating the PPO and POS plans, leaving the HMO plan, are options under consideration.

Commissioners will discuss the budget again at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Newton County Historic Courthouse at 1124 Clark St.