Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas encourages judges to uphold constitutional principles

COVINGTON — An unbudgeted increase in title ad valorem tax (TAVT) collections will be used to help offset overages in the cost of constructing and furnishing the expansion of the Newton County Judicial Center.

The Board of Commissioners approved a budget amendment last Tuesday that transfers $1.3 million to the 2011 Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax fund in order to make up a funding shortfall for the judicial expansion. The funds will be used to cover a variety of expenditures, from furniture to locks, curbing and paving and an audio-visual system. The expansion was completed in late 2018.

According to county Finance Director Brittany White, TAVT collections through the first six months of the fiscal year totaled $1,487,000 more than was budgeted, a 110 percent increase. The increased collections are due to a change in the way the state disburses the funds. The new distribution formula, effective July 1, 2019, calls for 35% of collections to be sent to the state and 65% to stay at the local level.

At the local level, funds are distributed as follows:

♦ Funds associated with vehicles registered in unincorporated areas of the county are distributed with 51% of the proceeds sent to the county governing authority and 49% to the Board of Education;

♦ Funds associated with vehicles registered in incorporated areas of the county are distributed with 28% of the proceeds sent to the county, 23% sent to the municipal governing authority, and 49% to the Board of Education.

Expansion of the county’s Judicial Center was approved by voters as part of the 2011 SPLOST project list. The project was initially expected to cost $7 million, but it soon became apparent that the project cost was growing faster than the county could collect the tax money. Commissioners eventually were able to commit $5.3 million in excess SPLOST collections to the project, bringing the total SPLOST commitment to $12.3 million. The actual cost of constructing and furnishing the 28,000-foot expansion exceeded that figure by more than $1.3 million, a gap that was filled by the excess TATV collections.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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