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Newton County mulling tax increase

Comparative tipping fees

Clayton County Landfill $40/ton

For pick-up trucks and smaller vehicles: Clayton County Residents - $15 per load. Non-County residents - $20 per load

Pine Ridge Landfill in Butts County

$38.75/ton, plus $15 environmental fee and some surcharges

Augusta Landfill in Richmond County

$100 annual per vehicle registration. $33.50/ton, with discounts for higher volumes

Lithonia Transfer Station in DeKalb County

(Advanced Disposal) $42/ton

Newton County could see the County M&O  millage increase from 11.225 to 12.990, bringing the total millage without fire services and schoolboard to 13.491, unless the board can find additional cuts in the budget for next year. 

The bump would amount to an additional $20 average on a home valued at $100,000. Tuesday is the deadline for setting the millage rate.

Commissioners have also decided to raise the tipping fee at the landfill as high as $43 a ton, up $7 from $36, and implement an annual tiered fee between $45 and $65 for vehicle decals to use the convenience centers. The decals would be cheapest for county residents and free for seniors.

The recycling centers will also cease to accept tires and yard waste.

The board indicated it would work with the cities to determine a grace period for introducing the change.
The decision to raise revenue for the Solid Waste Fund follows years of subsidies from the General Fund to offset the cost of operating the landfill and the county’s 11 free convenience centers.

The board was hoping that eliminating that $2 million annual subsidy would allow the millage rate to remain the same, but the new revenue stream is untested and budget increases for pay raises, E911, impact fees, capital improvement, and other areas will likely offset those savings.

The BOC has been wrestling with the budget for several weeks to bring it down from the initial proposal of $59 million.

Finance Director Michelle Kelly presented the board with several options Tuesday night, with proposed budgets ranging from $53 to $56 million.

“I’ve looked everywhere [for places to cut],” said Kelly. “This is what it costs to provide the services that the county provides.”

Chairman Keith Ellis reminded the board that the current budget is the “closest to actuals [spending] than ever before.” In the past, the county’s budget has not accurately reflected the costs of solid waste, E911, and impact fees.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz requested that the board also take a closer look at the line item budget for both the Solid Waste Fund and the Water Fund, noting that neither has been run as a true enterprise fund.

“That’s where we always get into trouble,” she said.

The board has discussed the possibility of increasing the cost of water to its wholesale buyers to fund infrastructure upgrades.

Commissioner John Douglas praised the county’s decision to set a $700,000 budget for legal fees across the board, including legal services for the Water and Solid Waste funds.

“[Legal fees are] on a downward trends, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “Hopefully we can stay on that trend.”

Commissioner Lanier Sims took the board to task for failing to address the Solid Waste deficit earlier.

“This is not something that just landed in our lap this week,” he said, adding that the board has been aware of the financial problems with the landfill and the convenience centers for years.

Sims also expressed concern about dipping into the county’s fund balance.

“If we don’t stop, we’re going to bleed ourselves completely dry,” he said.