COVINGTON — Newton County commissioners approved a $74,398,136 general fund budget for fiscal year 2021 following the second and final public hearing on the budget last week.

The maintenance and operation budget will be funded with a tax millage rate of 12.917. Despite the fact that the millage rate has decreased from last year’s rate of 13.43, taxpayers whose properties increased in value could see a tax increase.

County Manager Lloyd Kerr said the value of taxable properties in the county increased by a total of 7.92% over last year.

“There will be more taxes collected, partially because of the increase in the number of properties that are being developed, but also if a property has increased its value more than 7.29% over last year, then there will be additional taxes collected,” said Kerr. “Some properties did not increase their value more than that, some increased more.”

Based on a millage rate of 12.917 the county will collect about $1.2 million more than in the last fiscal year. Some key increases in the general fund budget include:

♦ $1.6 million for step increases for employees

♦ A $617,000 increase in health insurance premiums

♦ $2.3 million for new positions; 20 of those positions are in Fire Services to man two new stations and to increase command staff.

♦ $370,000 for new vehicles for the Newton County Sheriff’s Office

♦ $545,760 for local matching funds associated with $1.3 million the county expects to receive in local, state and federal grants

The budget total including all funds is $104,587,269.

District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz made the motion to approve the budget, noting that this will be the final time she votes on a budget after losing her bid for re-election.

“My first time to vote on a budget was in 2009, and it was about $30 million less than this one,” she said. “So we’ve come a long way. There are a lot of increases, and yet the population has increased. We’ve come a long way to make our entire county financial operations stronger, so I’m pleased we are at that point and that in adopting this budget we will actually be able to lower the millage rate.”

District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards said, while the budget is not what he originally wanted, he was pleased with the collaboration that took place in the budgeting process.

“It’s not what I wanted, but it’s a far cry from the proposed,” he said. “I believe it represents quite a compromise, and it provides the funds to run our county as it should be.”

The Board of Commissioners expects to approve the millage rate at the Aug. 4 meeting.

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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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