COVINGTON, Ga. — New positions to pick up roadside trash, fight fires and inspect existing and ongoing construction are among finance officials’ initial recommendations for commissioners to include in the 2022 county budget.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners began the process of approving the budget last week with public presentations from department heads and elected officials.
Finance Director Brittany White said the budget document is “very preliminary” and does not include a final total.
Changes typically are made after commissioners make their own adjustments after hearing department presentations.
White said finance officials also will need to see estimated tax revenues for 2022 when the county’s tax digest is released. The digest is the total assessed value of all taxable property in Newton County.
After the digest’s release, a final budget recommendation can be made to commissioners — likely around June 1, White said.
Commissioners heard budget presentations from 18 different county government departments Tuesday; and presentations and requests from leaders of constitutional offices, the judicial system and other county functions Wednesday.
Thursday was reserved for requests for funding from county service and other agencies, such as the Industrial Development Authority and the Highway 278 Community Improvement District.
Department heads generally said the county’s population growth prompted the need for a number of new positions.
However, finance officials currently are only recommending county commissioners fund 31 requested new positions costing $1.7 million out of 142 requested new positions costing $8.7 million.
Most of the requests for new personnel were in the fire department, which proposed 99 new positions at a cost of $6.2 million; and the sheriff’s office, which sought 24 new positions at a cost of $1.46 million.
Sheriff Ezell Brown said he was not very “optimistic” about how his budget requests will turn out this year despite including what he felt was his office’s requirements to serve a growing county.
“I’ve presented what I think is an actual and true accounting of needs for the community,” Brown told commissioners.
The fire department will be staffing the recently opened Station 2 on Georgia Hwy. 162 in south Newton, and the soon-opened Station 8 on Gum Creek Road in Oxford.
It also will need to staff the new Station 4 on County Road 213 in Starrsville for part of the year after work is completed in 2022, Fire Chief Mike Conner said.
County Manager Lloyd Kerr recommended funding all six equipment operator positions requested for Public Works, which maintains county roads.
The request is for positions to oversee four new crews of temporary workers that will pick up roadside trash and for a driver of a tractor for litter pickup, officials said.
It also is requesting a $500,000 increase in its contract labor line item to hire the additional 16 temporary workers to staff the litter crews, they said.
Kerr only recommended funding one new position, a tax assistant, out of the five Tax Commissioner Marcus Jordan requested as part of Jordan’s planned realignment of the office.
Jordan’s other requested positions include an accounting manager, senior executive supervisor, and two deputy tax commissioners.
Other departments’ personnel requests for funding included four new fulltime positions for Development Services, which includes county planning, zoning, building inspection and code enforcement functions; and one fulltime position each for the Information Services and Elections & Voter Registration departments.
One of the new positions listed for Development Services is for a planning technician, said director Judy Johnson.
“I have a critical need for a planning tech,” Johnson said. “I need someone who’s capable of corresponding with the developer or … a member of the transportation department and understand what they need to come back.”
Kerr also recommended two new part-time positions for Geographic Information Services, which creates up-to-date maps for county agencies’ use; and one new part-time judge for Magistrate Court.
The budget’s personnel requests did not include one fulltime and four contract positions the coroner is requesting as part of a planned major overhaul of her office’s operations.
Newton County government's 2022 budget year will begin July 1. The final budget for its current year totaled $72.3 million with funding from a property tax rate of 12.916 mills.