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County approves $44.89 million budget
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The Newton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $44.89 million budget for the 2012-2013 year Tuesday and voted to keep the millage rate at its current 10.91 rate, but did not promise to devote any additional revenue to economic development.

The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce previously asked for its economic development budget to be nearly doubled to $450,000, but while commissioners were sympathetic to the request, they did not increase the budget.

With sales tax revenues strengthening even before a new Walmart opened at the intersection of Brown Bridge and Salem roads in March, the county could see additional revenue throughout the year. Commissioners agreed to reexamine the budget in December and February to see where revenues stood.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz made a motion Tuesday to devote that potential extra revenue to either economic development or additional paid holidays for employees, but the motion was voted down.

Commissioner Mort Ewing's follow-up motion to leave any future revenue use unspecified was passed.

The approved budget will reduce employee furlough days by five next year. For the past three fiscal years, county employees have taken 15 furlough days, County Manager John Middleton said. For the 2013 fiscal year, county employees will only take 10 furlough days.

As part of wrapping up the budget process, the board approved the holiday compensation and observation policy for county employees.

County employees will not be paid for holidays unless they are required to work those days. Fourth of July will be the only paid holiday for county employees.

County to upgrade virtual infrastructure

The board approved a $40,000 upgrade for the county's virtual infrastructure.

Mandy Mitchell of the county's Information System Department said the current virtual infrastructure is outdated. Some components are also no longer supported.

Mitchell said the upgrades to the software and hardware will alleviate any performance issues and will allow for future growth.

County continues contract with jail healthcare provider

The board voted to continue its contract with NaphCare, a healthcare provider for correctional facilities, for another year.

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown credited NaphCare with saving the county money through its services.

The county will pay around $138,000 per month for the services, according to the approved contract. This cost would cover care for approximately 650 inmates. If care is provided for more than 650 inmates, the county will pay NaphCare an additional $1.40 per inmate, per day.

The county has contracted healthcare services to NaphCare since 2006.

In other news...

The board approved an intergovernmental agreement between the county, the city of Covington and the Main Street Covington organization.

The board also appointed Covington's Police Cheif Stacey Cotton to represent District 5 on the DFACS board.