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Newton County soon to start budgeting process

COVINGTON – Creating and evaluating a proposed budget for the fiscal years 2015 and 2016 for Newton County will soon be underway.

County Manager John Middleton told the commissioners Tuesday that Assistant County Manager Tom Garrett and Finance Director Michelle Kelly will begin reviewing department and agencies’ budgets on Feb. 19.

Commissioners agreed during the strategic planning sessions to create budget committees in order for the department heads as well as the commissioners be more hands-on during the budget process.

Middleton formed five different committees, which will be made up of two commissioners along with the finance director and county manager designee.

The budget committees are as follows:

• Public works and enterprise funds committee – roads and bridges, engineering, fleet management, water resources, solid waste management and Keep Covington Newton Clean and Beautiful

• Administrative committee – Board of Commissioners, finance, human resources, information technology, development services, government building services

• Community services and appropriations committee – factory shoals, extension service, appropriations, recreation commission, library, senior services, health department, View Point Health, DFACS, economic development, Head Start, Newton Community Partnership, Alcovy CASA, Washington Street Community Center and Nelson Heights Community Center

• Public safety – Newton County Sheriff’s Office, Newton County Fire Service, emergency management, animal control, Emergency 911 appropriation, Newton Medical Center and EMS millage and fire district millage.

• Constitutional officers and courts committee – Superior Court, Magistrate Court, Probate Court, Juvenile Court, clerk of court, district attorney, public defender, tax commissioner, tax assessor, Board of Elections and coroner

When asked by the Citizen what committees they would be interested in being involved with, Commissioners Levie Maddox and John Douglas said on Thursday they were still undecided and plan to discuss with Middleton which ones to join.

A budget development workshop will be held April 7 to provide the commissioners and citizens with an overview of the current status of the county’s budget and other information that will establish the baseline conditions in order to develop the 2015-2016 proposed budget.

Middleton said his office will present the state of the budget; an overview of the economic indicators and trends; a revenue analysis and projections including a five-year forecast, five-year capital improvement plan, as well as a service analysis and service delivery costing scenarios.

“I think by the time the final budget vote rolls around, the decision by the board will already be influenced by the budget committees,” Maddox said. “The budget schedule will give a higher awareness to the public and there will be no surprise uh-ohs when it comes time to vote.”

Middleton plans to present a formal budget to the commissioners the last week in April. The millage rate will also be recommended during that time.

Douglas said he’d like to see property taxes decrease.

Over the summer, county officials adopted the rollback millage rate of 11.59 and a budget of $45,952,201.

“I want to make sure we don’t raise taxes. I’d like to see us return to the millage rate we had last year before millage rate raised,” Douglas said. “I want to see if we have more income this year since property values are going up a little bit; and if that’s the case, I want to see if we can give our employees a raise. That would be a nice change. I hope to use the money wisely and in ways that will benefit our county.”

In May, the county plans to schedule budget town hall meetings in order to receive community input. Commissioners will need to adopt the budget by June 30 before the fiscal year 2014 goes into affect July 1.

Since county officials agreed to develop a two-year budget, commissioners will conduct a mid-cycle budget review from April to June 2015 and set the millage rate.