COVINGTON — The potential for a reduction in the county’s tax millage rate appears less likely following a June 4 public hearing on the proposed budget.
County Finance Director Nicole Cross told commissioners it now appears the county’s tax digest — the overall value of taxable property in the county — may show a growth rate of 8.85 percent, as opposed to the 9% commissioners had previously anticipated. Part of that decrease is due to the fact that tax payments from Takeda — about $140,000 —are already included in the total tax digest figures. County officials had previously thought that tax revenue would come in a separate payment from the Joint Development Authority.
Based on the 8.75% increase in the tax digest, commissioners are looking at keeping the county’s millage rate the same — at 13.441 mills.
The proposed $69 million budget represents a 5.9% increase over the current fiscal year revised budget.
The budget includes step level pay increases for all employees at a cost of $1,823,101. It also includes a health insurance premium increase of approximately $445,000 and seven new positions:
♦ Two tag/tax technicians, at $47,327 each for salary and benefits, for the new westside office of the Tax Commissioner;
♦ Magistrate Court judge, at $104,655 in salary and benefits;
♦ Deputy clerk of court, at $47,327 in salary and benefits;
♦ Fire Services field instructor, at $55,142 in salary and benefits;
♦ Part-time custodian in Facilities Management, at $13,256 in salary; and
♦ GIS analyist in Government Information Systems, at $58,555 in salary and benefits.
In addition, Sheriff Ezell Brown plans to increase starting pay for entry-level deputies and jailers — putting deputies at $19 per hour and jailers at slightly more than $17 per hour. The total annual cost of implementing those increases is budgeted at $700,000.
County Manager Lloyd Kerr told commissioners at a May 21 budget work session that the sheriff will fund those increases by unfunding eight vacant positions in the Sheriff’s Office and six vacant positions in the detention center.
During the public hearing last week, no one spoke in opposition to the proposed budget. One person, Sarah Dauby, a member of the Newton County Library board, spoke in favor, thanking commissioners for their support of library operations.
The second and final public hearing on the budget will be held at 6 p.m. June 18 at the Newton County Historic Courthouse. Budget approval is expected at the following regular meeting at 7 p.m.
The proposed budget is available for public inspection during regular office hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday — in the office of the County Clerk inside the Historic Courthouse, located at 1124 Clark St. A copy of the budget can also be found on the county’s website at co.newton.ga.us.