EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated from an earlier version to include additional information.
The county government is expected to bring in more than $3 million for its 2021 budget by leaving the property tax rate at its current level because of an expected 8% increase in assessed property values.
The revenue from keeping the county government's property tax at its current rate of 13.43 mills will help fund the $105.6 million total budget that includes new equipment and employees for the sheriff's and fire departments., according to county officials and documents on the county website.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to host a final public hearing today, June 23, at 5 p.m., followed by a special called meeting at 6 p.m. to consider approval of a final fiscal year 2021 budget. Both meetings are scheduled for the commissioners' boardroom in the Historic Courthouse at 1124 Clark St. in downtown Covington.
The proposed 2021 total budget is almost 7% higher than the $98.8 million revised 2020 budget the county government is operating under in the current fiscal year.
The total budget is a combination of four funds, with the General Fund used for most county operations comprising 71% of the total.
The fund totals $75.4 million, which is up 5% from the General Fund in the 2020 revised budget.
Almost 75% -- or $3 of every $4 -- of the 2021 General Fund will go to salaries and benefits for regular employees, and purchased or contracted services. Supplies, capital outlays, debt service and other uses make up the remainder, according to the county's budget document on its website.
Salaries and benefits are planned to increase 8.8%, from $42.6 million in 2020 to $46.4 million in 2021.
Most of the 76 new employees are planned for the sheriff's office and county fire department, officials said.
Increases are due in part to all employees moving up a step in a pay plan the board approved in 2019, according to the document.
Purchased and contracted services are proposed to rise 8.1%, from $10.2 million to more than $11 million, according to the document.
The proposed budget also plans for a 7% increase in health insurance costs; funding new positions for two new fire stations; providing $505,000 for new sheriff's office vehicles and computer upgrades; and providing matching funds for almost $1.3 million in federal, state and local grants, according to the budget document.
It assumes an 8% increase in the tax digest, which is the total taxable value of all real and personal property within Newton County. It will be the seventh consecutive year the county digest has increased, according to county records.
However, the county finance department has not received final tax digest totals from the tax commissioner's office because the appeal process is not yet complete, said Finance Director Brittany White.
The county government's property tax rate is levied in addition to the tax rate used to help fund the county school system.