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Newton BOC looks at lowering millage rate

COVINGTON — The Newton County Board of Commissioners looked at a variety of factors at the first of three work sessions Monday that could impact the upcoming budget.

The goal for the fiscal year 2015 budget is to reduce the millage rate, according to Chairman Keith Ellis. County Manager John Middleton presented the commissioners with preliminary budget numbers based on reducing the millage rate from 11.54 to 10.91.

If the county reduces the millage rate, the projected total revenue would be more than $47 million. Newton County would receive about $21.5 million from property taxes if the millage rate is set at 10.91, with 1 mill equaling $1.9 million. Middleton said the county would continue to receive about $25 million in other revenue streams which are not factored by the millage rate.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz said the commissioners need to work diligently to make sure the county doesn’t decrease the rate dramatically, resulting in citizens being taxed at a higher rate in the future.

“We’re trying to operate on two-year budget. What is crucial is that we don’t want to come down so far that we have to raise the rate the next couple of years. We want to go down in 2015 and be able to hold our own for the following year,” Schulz said.

The proposed expenditures for the 2015 fiscal year total $49 million, which includes appropriations totaling $6.9 million.

Middleton said the county received appropriation funding requests totaling $7.7 million, a $1.4 million increase from the previous year. Some of those increases include requests from the city of Covington to provide an additional $400,000 to fund operations and add another position to the Covington-Newton County Emergency 911 Center.

Schulz said the Covington-Newton Chamber of Commerce also requested to provide some funding for the retail recruiter position that is currently being funded by the city.

“I think we should chip in so that recruiter isn’t just focusing on the city, but the whole county and help draw businesses into our area,” Schulz said.

Assistant County Manager Tom Garrett also reviewed the proposed capital and personnel requests, which included buying vehicles, computer upgrades and hiring more deputies.

With two more budget work sessions to be held this month, Commissioner John Douglas said a public comment period should be allowed.

Schulz also suggested providing the employees and more citizens an email address to send in concerns and comments about the proposed budget.

The next meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. June 9 and June 16 at the Historic Courthouse, located at 1124 Clark St. in Covington.