I sup­port the roll­back rate

The Covington News - - Front page -

Let me be per­fectly clear. As Newton County Com­mis­sion Chair, I am strongly in sup­port of the roll­back mill­age rate of 10.9 mils. For 10 years, the mill­age rate has re­mained at 9.73, ad­e­quate dur­ing our flush times but far from ad­e­quate as this county strug­gles with a dra­mat­i­cally re­duced tax di­gest down some 24 per­cent since I took of­fice 18 months ago. If three district com­mis­sion­ers vote to con­tinue that rate and not adopt the roll­back rate, they will be con­tribut­ing might­ily to an un­nec­es­sary de­cline in crit­i­cal ar­eas of county ser­vices.

At ei­ther rate, our cit­i­zens are go­ing to see in­con­ve­nient and un­pleas­ant re­duc­tions in ser­vices they ex­pect the county govern­ment to pro­vide: long lines at the tax and tag of­fices, long de­lays in ob­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion by phone or in per­son, long waits for road and bridge re­pair that could even cre­ate dan­ger­ous haz­ards, and long re­sponse times when you need fire or deputy as­sis­tance. At the 9.73 mil rate some 120 county em­ploy­ees will lose their jobs. This will have a $20 mil­lion neg­a­tive im­pact for this county. That is the same as los­ing an in­dus­try. Not to men­tion that we will be los­ing decades of ex­pe­ri­ence and pro­fes­sion­ally trained em­ploy­ees. At the 10.9 rate, jobs will be lost as well but not to the same de­gree.

Rais­ing the mill­age rate to 10.9 will at least al­low us to con­tinue to pro­vide an ad­e­quate level of safety and se­cu­rity by our Sher­iff’s Depart­ment plus en­ables our courts sys­tem to con­tinue to op­er­ate at a level needed to en­force our laws. The roll­back rate will min­i­mize em­ployee cuts for our Sher­iff’s Depart­ment and court sys­tem. The one area of county govern­ment that has grown dur­ing these eco­nomic times is crime. If we do not pro­vide ad­e­quate fund­ing to keep this ma­chine mov­ing smoothly, the length of time to try a case will in­crease adding to the cost to house in­mates. If we do not pro­vide an ap­pro­pri­ate level of fund­ing for those who work to keep us safe, who would choose to live here?

The roll­back rate of 10.9 will in­crease the av­er­age $150,000 home in Newton County by ap­prox­i­mately $60 this year. It will be a more sig­nif­i­cant hit to busi­ness and in­dus­try; how­ever, I be­lieve they want to keep the same level of ser­vice for our county. As painful as this is to say, I be­lieve that all of us should be will­ing to share in the bur­den of keep­ing this county afloat by pay­ing a nom­i­nal in­crease. We’re all in the same boat; we will float or sink to­gether. In my opin­ion, if we can­not pro­vide a safe and se­cure en­vi­ron­ment, busi­ness and in­dus­try will shun us as well as the cal­iber of home­own­ers and fam­i­lies hop­ing to en­joy life in this spe­cial place.

Newton County is, in­deed a very spe­cial place. The econ­omy has dealt us a heavy hand. Two years ago, the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers de­ter­mined the level of ser­vices needed for the 99,964 cit­i­zens of our county re­quired a bud­get of $55 mil­lion. De­mand for ser­vices has not lessoned, in fact, we now serve over 109,000 cit­i­zens in our county. Last year, the bud­get re­duc­tion trimmed the fat and brought ef­fi­cien­cies of op­er­a­tions as our motto. We will con­tinue that path this year un­der the roll­back rate and I be­lieve those ef­fi­cien­cies will be re­quired from all ar­eas of county govern­ment. To cut our bud­get by an­other 14 per­cent will be equiv­a­lent to am­pu­tat­ing an arm to heal a bruise. Let us now agree that there are min­i­mal steps we must take to pre­serve our safety and se­cu­rity; the roll­back rate will pro­vide the fund­ing to achieve a re­spon­si­ble bud­get.

The district com­mis­sion­ers have strug­gled with this de­ci­sion, and I give them credit for the count­less hours and re­search that have gone into the ac­tion that must be taken. Make no mis­take about it, my fel­low com­mis­sion­ers and cit­i­zens; I be­lieve the cor­rect course of ac­tion will be to adopt the roll­back mill­age rate of 10.9 at Tues­day night’s com­mis­sion meet­ing. Step up and be he­roes right now when he­roes are needed.


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