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BOC works to balance budget

COVINGTON -- The Board of Commissioners is wading through budget requests from department heads totaling more than $4.5 million over expected revenues.

The county is operating on a $44,898,056 budget this fiscal year.

Projected revenues would put the fiscal year 2014 budget at $45,861,727, an increase of $963,671. However, total budget requests would put the budget at more than $50 million. The Sheriff's Office is requesting the bulk of the increase at around $4 million, or a 2-mill increase.

If the millage rate remains at 10.93 mills, the county will see about a $1.3 million decline in revenues. Adoption of the rollback rate of 11.59 mills is currently under discussion. But the only way all budget requests could be funded is if the millage was increased by another 2.5 mills, to a total of 14.09 mills, County Manager John Middleton told the board at a work session held Monday at Nelson Heights Community Center.

"If we do that, they ought to run us all out of town," District 1 Commissioner John Douglas said.

Douglas said many in his district have not had a property tax decline, but instead values have remained flat or increased, so adopting the rollback rate would be a tax increase.

District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said she wants to know what the impact would be on homeowners and businesses, and noted that commissioners need to go line item by line item to try to make sure there's not a better way to run operations or trim expenses before adopting the rollback rate. She said the impact to citizens must be considered.

Middleton also encouraged commissioners to consider the impact to citizens of a $1.3 million cut in services if the rollback rate is not adopted.

Middleton said department heads made their requests based on what they think is necessary for better operations. There were numerous requests for updated technology. For example, the human resources department has a fan trained on a CPU to keep it from overheating.

Much discussion Monday was devoted to the county's solid waste department, which loses approximately $500,000 a year. Although the landfill makes money, the recycling centers, which are open free to the public, do not. There appeared to be a consensus from a majority of board members to form a committee to explore ways to improve solid waste management and possibly generate more revenue. That's likely not something that could be done in time for the budget to be approved in June, but could be completed by January, six months into this fiscal year, officials agreed.

Commissioners also had requested additions to the budget. District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson wants the county to allocate $40,000 each to Washington Street Community Center, Nelson Heights Community Center, and New Leaf center at Walkers Bend in Covington, as well as $6,000 to the Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter.

Chairman Keith Ellis said he would like to hire a public information officer for the county, at least part time, and District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims suggested a new hire of someone to pursue grants for the county.

Ellis is also pushing for the county to go paperless to save money and increase efficiency. He noted that the county still takes job applications by paper and they are not available online. The first phase of that project will be furnishing commissioners with IPads later this month so they can have the information supplied at board meetings in electronic format. On a positive note, for employees, there are 10 unpaid holidays in the current budget and in the fiscal year 2014 budget that would be reduced to five.

Comments

mansfield 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Raising property taxes? "If we do that they ought to run us all out of town." Well said! Finally, an elected official who sticks to his pledges.

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jwm1955 11 months, 2 weeks ago

So what would be wrong with them buying their own I pads, that way the employees would have 7 days of holiday pay instead of 5. When they get two years old the I pads will be outdated, I thought these folks had a brain instead of a money bag to think with.

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deathtotaxes 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Raise the milage rate and higher more gov workers what a bunch of brain surgens

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dennistay53 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Any commissioner that would vote for a tax increase during this time should face immediate recall. At least we have one commissioner who understand what the property owners are going through. Henderson should be run out of town for even suggesting the money he is during these times. Hire a public relations officer? Come on- you have a high paid attorney, a county manager, and a fulltime commission chairman. Adding another executive is the last thing you need to do during these economic times.

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dennistay53 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Losing money at the recycle center don't surprise me at all. I carried trash to the one at Gum Creek. Counting my vehicle there were 3 vehicles dumping trash. Mine was the only one with a Newton County tag. The other two had Walton County tags. No one came out to even look. Newton County taxpayers are paying to handle trash from other counties.

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Newtownqq 11 months, 1 week ago

John, I am not sure where you live but my property value has slide over the last 4 years. It seems that dennistay is right we need to cut the fat and letting go the high paid attorney is a good start. A public info person, come on can't Ellis speak for the BOC that is what he was elected to do. Also I see that JC is up to his old ways again! How bout we ask Baxter or this new film studio to create a community partnership and help fund these programs. All must be mindful of the millions Deal and the BOC have granted Baxter in huge tax breaks and this is why there is no money! Look at what Wal-Mart has brought crime, so now lets see what it has attracted cheap clothing stores and sub shops. Stop the waste Republicans!!

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dennistay53 11 months, 1 week ago

I see now why many thought we needed a full time county mgr and fulltime commission chairman. It must be to find ways to spend money and raise tax. Yes county mgr if you can't balance the budget with what you have coming in cuts need to be made. That is what we as citizens and families and business do every day. When revenue fall short we cut spending. Newton citizen can you post the true millage rate? It is above 10.93 when you add the additions such as hospital etc. I believe it is somewhere well North of 12. Most counties already add this to their totals. So if they go to 14.09 the true number will be North of 16 mills. And can we really believe numbers coming out of the tax assessors office ? The school board have had to adjust numbers several times due to adjustments from the tax assessors. We need to hold the line on tax until all this proposed Baxter revenue start coming in. Have you ever seen property tax lowered in this county? Once they raise it is raised for good. 22 mill in school tax plus 16 in Boc tax equals 38 total mills.

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Neuhierl 11 months, 1 week ago

The property values in my area are 1/3 or less of their original value, as are the tax bills. We've had several years of tax reduction as a result. It's time to bring in common sense thinking. We need more money to run the county effectively. Is there waste that can be cut? Maybe. But there is much more not getting done simply because we don't have the money.

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dennistay53 11 months, 1 week ago

If any feel like they aren't paying enough tax then there is an easy fix. Donate to the county coffers. Many, many have not seen the lower property values and tax bills that the above posting notes. These upper end Baxter employees the county is trying to recruit to Newton aren't stupid. They look at tax rates before they relocate. My family looking at buying a 2nd home in South Ga. We're looking at tax rates, unemployment numbers, school performances, crime statistics among others. These baxter employees will be looking at the same.

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dennistay53 11 months, 1 week ago

Another example of SPLOST not being used for most important items. Sheriff say's he needs $550,000 to replace patrol cars and transport vans. SPLOST could be used for this. Yet in the 2011 SPLOST they felt it more important to build an Ag center and fund pet projects in district 4. They had to know at that time that patrol cars would need to be added or replaced. Now they are asking that ALL this burden fall on the property owners.

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dennistay53 11 months, 1 week ago

2.5 million dollars were allotted in the 2011 county SPLOST to buy county vehicles for the Sheriff, fire dept, and county fleet. And they now want the property tax payers to foot $550,000 to buy more?

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