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Republicans to rally against taxes
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Before the county’s final budget work session at 7 p.m. today, the Newton County Republican Party will rally against a property tax increase at 6 p.m., today on the Square.

Elizabeth Christian, 1st vice chair of the local republican party, said the party opposes both increasing property taxes and cutting any public safety jobs. State Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) and Newton County GOP Chairman Ester Fleming will speak at the rally.

Christian said all taxpayers who oppose property taxe increases are invited, not just Republicans. After the rally, the rally members will go to the Historic Courthouse at 6:30 p.m. to speak to the commissioners before the budget meeting. No public comments will be allowed during or after the meeting, so the party is advising residents to talk to their commissioner before the work session starts.

At the budget work session, the Board of Commissioners will have to find a way to cut the proposed fiscal year 2010 budget by the remaining $4.8 million. The current options on the table are to: keep the millage rate at 9.73 and cut between 45 and 62 employees, raise the millage rate to 10.308 and cut between one and 15 employees or raise the millage rate to 10.00 and cut between 25 and 30 employees. So far the commissioners have been split on the issue and unable to reach any consensus.

The variance in the number of employees cut in each option is dependent on whether the county commissioners keep none, some or all of the district projects they had planned for FY2010 and whether money for the library, recreation commission and other appropriations is reduced by another 5 percent.

The commissioners must also decide which jobs to cut. So far the commissioners and the public has said they don’t want to see public safety cut at all. However, Chairman Kathy Morgan said too many cuts to other departments may illegally impair mandated county services. The county pays 595 employees with money from the general fund.

Morgan has said that if the BOC can’t approve a budget by tomorrow, the county may not be able to pass the budget before June 30, the end of FY2009. Without an approved budget the county can’t bill for and collect taxes, which would only put the county in a worse financial situation.