COVINGTON, Ga. - Newton County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to decrease the millage rate to 13.43 mills during the Tuesday, Aug. 6 meeting.
District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan and District 2 Commissioner T. Demond Mason voted in approval of the proposed decrease in millage rate while District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schultz and District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards voted against the proposal.
District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson abstained from the vote.
“I don’t have enough information I need to make a very good decision,” Henderson said.
Chairman Marcello Banes voted to approve the millage rate decrease, breaking the tie.
Newton County residents will see a 6.82% increase in property taxes due to the newly adopted millage rate.
“It is a tax increase because we will be collecting more taxes than we did last year,” Lloyd Kerr, county manager, said.
The BOC held three public hearings for the proposed decrease in the millage rate. Two meetings were held Monday, July 29, and one meeting was held on Tuesday, Aug. 6 before the BOC meeting.
Barbara Morgan, Covington resident, spoke in approval of the decrease in millage rate during one of the July 29 public hearings. Morgan said the county struggled for a long time without enough funds to pay for the services they provided and felt it was fair to give the government what was needed to do the job the citizens expected them to do.
John Dobbs, Covington resident, spoke against the proposed millage decrease during one of the July 29 public hearings. Dobbs said taxes increased without any new services offered to the citizens.
The decreased millage rate was set to support the fiscal year 2020 budget, which was based on a strategic plan. The strategic plan, which showed the county’s needs, was created by the BOC, and Cowan thought the strategic plan was “one of the best plans [he] ever read.”
“We held our budget hearings,” Cowan said. “We had no one, that I could recall, came to all but one of the budget hearings, I believe. We had no objections from the citizens regarding the budget.”
The budget needed to be built first, according to Cowan, then the millage rate needed to be set to support the budget.
“For the first time, I think Newton County got it right,” Cowan said.