COVINGTON -- The Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing and vote on the fiscal year 2014 budget and millage rate Tuesday, July 16.
The public hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. followed by the regular meeting, when the vote will occur, at 7 p.m. The meetings take place at the Newton County Historic Courthouse at 1124 Clark St.
Commissioners voted Tuesday, June 18, to continue with the current year's budget until a new budget is approved. The fiscal year ends June 30.
Three commissioners -- Lanier Sims, Nancy Schulz and Levie Maddox -- reached an informal consensus earlier this month to adopt the rollback millage rate of 11.59 and a budget of $45,952,201. The current millage rate is 10.91.
Commissioner John Douglas opposes the rollback rate, instead supporting a 5 percent cut across the board in all departments. Commissioner J.C. Henderson said he opposes the budget because it includes a user fee for recycling centers.
Several citizens protested the proposed millage rate increase prior to and during the commissioner's June 18 meeting. Some stood outside the courthouse with signs. One man, holding a sign that read, "Don't Tax Me Bro," got a few honks of appreciation from passing motorists.
During public comments, citizen Dennis Taylor said he was the only citizen that spoke out last year to thank the board for keeping the millage the same. But he didn't have any thanks for the board this year. Taylor said he is concerned about the elderly on fixed incomes that have paid into the digest every year, but now are hurting.
"They can't go out and just grab money like the government can," he said.
Jessica Wright said she has started a campaign called Newton County for Liberty and has an online petition opposing a millage increase.
She said she stood in the rain at Walmart for an hour and moms with children and bags full of groceries stopped to sign the petition.
"This is something we will not forget and come reelection time you're not going to want to have voted for this," she said.
The 11.59 mils is the rollback rate, the rate that is needed to generate as much revenue as last year. Keeping the millage rate the same could have resulted in a reduction in force or the requirement of dipping into the fund balance, cuts that were too harsh for some commissioners.
The commissioners that support the rollback rate agreed there needs to be some type of sunset provision to prove to voters that when revenues increase, the rate will decrease.