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BOC reaches budget consensus

COVINGTON -- County commissioners have reached an informal consensus on the fiscal year 2013 budget. At a recent work session, commissioners unanimously consented to a $44.89 million budget that would keep the millage rate at 10.91 mils.

The budget is an increase of $649,880 over the fiscal year 2012 budget.

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.

For the first time in three years, the budget does not include layoffs of county staff. County employees will have paid days restored, reducing unpaid holidays from 15 to 10. This is the first phase of a three-phase plan proposed by County Manager John Middleton to phase out all 15 unpaid holidays over the next three years.

Chairman Kathy Morgan said the budget does not include any money for road projects, aside from a $90,000 local match to the Georgia Department of Transportation's Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant for paving local roads. The grant totals $750,000.

Morgan said she presented commissioners with a list of $4 million in road projects that could be done immediately "but there is no funding in the budget for that list."

The budget also did not include a request by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce to double funding for economic development.

Chamber President Hunter Hall requested earlier this month that the county up its portion of the budget to $250,000. Currently, both the county and city contribute a total of $241,000, equally split. The Chamber asked for that total budget to be increased to $500,000, with an equal split between city and county.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the budget at its June 19 meeting. A public hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. prior to the 7 p.m. regular meeting at the Newton County Historic Courthouse, located at 1124 Clark St.