COVINGTON — Newton County commissioners heard a proposal Tuesday night to restructure the way compensation is calculated for county officials, but not all of the commissioners were sold on the plan and no consensus was reached. A key objection for some was a proposal to make the base salary for the chairman’s position the highest in the county.
County Attorney Megan Martin presented the new formula for the calculation of compensation for the Probate Court judge, sheriff, clerk of courts, chairman of the Board of Commissioners and tax commissioner. The formula begins with minimum base salaries for each position that are tied to a county’s population. On top of these base salaries, officials may receive cost-of-living increases, state and local supplements, and longevity supplements.
The county is working to clarify legislation that governs how officials’ salaries are computed after Chairman Marcello Banes and Probate Court Judge Melanie Bell sent a demand for payment to the county claiming that their salaries have been incorrectly calculated and that they have each been underpaid for the past four years by about $180,000.
The county has asked the court to weigh in on whether or not Banes’ and Bell’s claims of inaccurate calculations are valid. All local judges have been recused from hearing the case, and no court date has yet been set.
If approved by the Legislature next year, the new salary calculation proposed by Martin Tuesday night would apply only to newly elected officers and not to any elected official currently in office.
Under Martin’s proposal, the base salary for only one position would increase. The salary for the chairman’s post would be set at 10% greater than the salary for the position of sheriff, which otherwise would be the highest at $96,381. The chairman’s base salary would be $106,020.
District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said she could not support a chairman receiving a salary greater than the sheriff’s. Schulz said the responsibilities of a sheriff are much greater than a chairman’s, particularly considering changes the county has made to the chairman’s role in the last nine years.
“In 2011 there was a home rule that removed duties from the chair and gave them to the then-county administrator,” said Schulz. “And then in 2016 we changed the enabling legislation to where we now have a county manager form of government versus a chairman form of government. … I don’t have a problem with the population-based salary, but I do have a problem with the additional 10% because the duties have changed and the form of government has changed.”
Martin said the 10% was included based on a “previous board’s desire to make the chairman the highest paid officer.”
Schulz noted that when the form of government was changed in 2016, keeping a full-time chairman position was not popular with many voters.
“We fought hard to keep a full-time chair,” she said. “The public really wanted a part-time chair. Now we want to move forward and make that chair the highest paid? I think we will run into a lot of concern from the public …”
Attorney Stephanie Lindsey, who represents Banes and Bell in their claims against the county, disagreed that the chair’s duties have been reduced.
“If you take a clear assessment of what chairs in the past have done and what the current chair is doing, you will see that it is comparable work,” Lindsey said. “… just because you change legislation doesn’t mean the duties have changed, doesn’t mean you have a chairman sitting around doing nothing — I know that’s not what you’re saying.”
Newton County changed its enabling legislation in 2016 based on recommendations from a citizens Form of Government Committee on which Banes served prior to being elected chairman. District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan chaired the committee, also prior to being elected.
Based on the committee’s recommendations, a number of duties were removed from the chairman, as follows:
♦ The chairman continued to serve as the chief executive officer for the county but all operational duties granted to the chairman were transferred to the county manager, including roads and bridges;
♦ All supervisory authority over county employees was transferred to the county manager;
♦ All financial and budget duties granted to the chairman were transferred to the county manager except the signing of checks, approval of purchases, execution of contracts, resolutions and other documents approved by the Board of Commissioners.
CONYERS — Three finalists for this year’s Rockdale Teacher of the Year were given the surprise announcement at their schools Wednesday morning.
Superintendent Dr. Terry Oatts, school board Chair Mandy North, Vice Chair Pam Brown, board members Sandra Jackson-Lett and Tony Dowdy, and cabinet members and staff brought the good news to each of the three finalists.
Competing for the top teacher award this year will be Jesse Smith from Rockdale Career Academy, Dr. Imani Bailey from Rockdale County High School, and Dr. Lynette Clark from the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology.
The RCPS Teacher of the Year Virtual Celebration will be held Dec. 1, where all school-level Teachers of the Year will be recognized and the district winner will be named. Each school-level teacher of the year is chosen by their peers as an educator who goes above and beyond for their students, colleagues and community. For the list of all of this year’s school-level Teachers of the Year, please visit www.rockdaleschools.org.
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COVINGTON — Intersection improvements, bridge replacements and road widening projects throughout Newton County are on the ballot in the Nov. 3 General Election.
Newton County voters are being asked to support a 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for transportation — or TSPLOST — to cover a wide range of road projects in the county.
The tax will be collected over five years and is expected to generate $56 million. Most of the revenue — $42 million — will go to Newton County, but municipalities will also receive a share, as follows:
♦ Covington — $10,361,670
♦ Mansfield — $1,153,430
♦ Newborn — $465,630
♦ Oxford — $1,694,220
♦ Porterdale — $1,150,050
♦ Social Circle — $2,075
Newton County will use its portion of funds for the following proposed projects recommended by the SPLOST Oversight Committee:
♦ Intersection improvements, County Road 213 and Ga. Highway 36
♦ Widening of Brown Bridge Road
♦ Transit service startup study
♦ Countywide safety plan (striping, signage and other safety measures)
♦ Industrial Boulevard improvements
♦ Bridge replacement on Henderson Mill Road at Bear Creek
♦ Realignment at Mote Road and Ga. Highway 162
♦ Bridge replacement on Flat Shoals Road at Dried Indian Creek bridge
♦ Intersection improvements at Kirkland Road and Jack Neely roads
♦ Intersection improvements at Harold Dobbs and Crowell roads
♦ Bridge replacement on Dial Mill Road at Little Haynes Creek
Covington’s list of TSPLOST projects includes an increase in funding for bridges/maintenance, which would provide for possible construction of the Emory Street pedestrian bridge. The county intends to bond up to $10 million in projects in order to get them underway while tax collections are accumulating. The city of Covington has indicated it will bond $8.9 million in projects.