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County millage rate set to increase with new budget
Newton County and Solid Waste Authority deal discussed

COVINGTON, Ga. – Property owners in Newton County are likely to start seeing higher tax bills in coming months after the Board of Commissioners gave its blessing Wednesday night to a budget plan for the coming year that includes a hike in the county’s millage rate.

Commissioners approved by a 4-1 consensus to move ahead with a plan that raises the county’s millage rate 0.56 from 13.441 to 14.002.

District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards dissented.

The plan calls for county employees to receive 100 percent of the raises recommended in a market pay study. Like last year, this year’s raises will be given in two phases with 60 percent being given July 1 and employees seeing the remaining 40 percent in January 2019. It also calls for a step plan for future employee raises.

The new budget funds staffing increases with magistrate court, probate court and juvenile court slated to receive one new employee each.

Slightly larger increases in staffing are planned for the roads department, facilities, development services and the tax assessor’s office.

Public safety gets the largest number of new positions in the proposed budget with slots for 12 new sheriff’s deputies and firefighters being added. Seven additional jail positions are also included.

County Finance Director Nicole Cross said the budget includes $265,313 that will be going into the county’s contingency fund along with $250,000 each going into cash reserves and the fund balance. She said she is recommending that the county’s disbursement from the JDA as a result of the Facebook deal be put in cash reserves when it is received.

Hearings on the proposed tax increase have been scheduled for July 23 at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. A third tax increase hearing is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. July 30. The hearing will be followed by a special called meeting of the Board of Commissioners at 6:30 for adoption of the new millage rate and the FY 2019 budget.