County budget proposed to increase

COVINGTON -- Newton County's budget is projected to increase despite a decrease in the tax digest, a hopeful sign that the county's financial situation is improving.

The proposed budget presented to commissioner at a Monday night work session is $44,898,056, an increase of $649,880 from the current budget.

That is based on maintaining the millage rate at 10.91 mils.

The Newton County Sheriff's Office would see the biggest increase under the proposal, at $625,890, for a total budget of $18,661,433.

Most departments would also see a budget increase, with the exception of the chief executive, fleet and planning and development departments.

County Manager John Middleton has also proposed phasing out employee unpaid holidays over three years. For this upcoming budget, fiscal year 2012, Middleton is proposing reducing the number of unpaid holidays from 15 to 10, thus restoring five paid days. This would increase productivity and paid hours worked by nearly two percent, according to his calculations.

Though the tax digest is projected to decrease, additional revenues are expected by way of sales tax and fee increases by the state, such as for vehicle tags and titles, said Chairman Kathy Morgan. "There are a lot of little things that up," she said.

"We have seen an upward trend in sales tax over the last four months or so," Morgan added, noting that collections have been exceeding projections even before the new Walmart opened in March.

Morgan said higher sales tax collections are being observed throughout the state, but state officials have indicated to her that the increased revenue is from staples like groceries and gas sales, not luxury items.

The county commission will receive final digest numbers in July.