COVINGTON - County commissioners unanimously approved a nearly $45 million budget and agreed to keep the millage rate at 10.91 mils Tuesday night.
The budget of $44,898,056 is an increase of nearly $650,000 over the fiscal year 2012 budget.
The millage rate will be a total of 12.811 mils, when the hospital indigent fund, emergency medical services and state of Georgia rates are added. In addition, unincorporated Newton, Mansfield,Newborn and Porterdale have a fire district millage rate of .792 mils.
During a public hearing on the budget prior to the BOC's regular meeting, one resident said she's disappointed commissioners opted not to raise the millage rate.
Ann Neuhierl, a resident of Villages at Ellington off Brown Bridge Road, is leading the citizen effort to get roads repaired there.
"I'm having a very hard time getting my mind around how we cannot raise our millage rate and not have the money we need to run our government," she said, referring to a lack of funding for road maintenance in the budget. "I'm shocked and appalled, and I'm not happy."
Neuhierl said she's willing to pay more in property taxes, especially given that the value of her home has declined, in order to get more roads repaired.
Another citizen commended commissioners for not raising the millage, but added that commissioners should put pressure on the school board to raise the school system millage rate in order to help pay for roads. However, that portion of a resident's taxes goes to the school system.
Commissioners agreed that they will reexamine the budget in December and again in February to determine if revenues exceed projections and if so, where that additional money will go. Commissioners discussed applying any additional revenues to reinstate additional paid holidays for employees -- five out of 15 unpaid holidays were restored in this budget -- and to allocating additional funding to the Chamber of Commerce for economic development. The approved budget did not include a request by the Chamber to double the economic development budget, which is split between the city and county, to a total of $500,000, with the county contributing $250,000.
The motion to revisit revenues without naming specifically where any additional revenues will go was approved 4 to 1, with Commissioner Lanier Sims opposing.
In other news, Chairman Kathy Morgan announced there may be additional money in this year's budget to apply to road repairs. Morgan said the amount encumbered for fiscal year 2012 has not been finalized, so she asked commissioners to table a decision on the road projects that would benefit from the remaining funds.