The best op­tion for our county

The Covington News - - Front page -

The bud­get process for the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers is en­ter­ing the fi­nal count­down. A bud­get must be set and voted on by June 15; how­ever, there are ma­jor de­ci­sions yet to be made. Cit­i­zens, county em­ploy­ees and BOC mem­bers are all keenly aware that Newton County faces a ma­jor rev­enue short­fall. Yet to be seen is how the BOC will de­ter­mine a fi­nal bud­get and sub­se­quently set a mill­age rate that will gen­er­ate funds enough to pro­vide mod­est ser­vices above and be­yond those that are man­dated.

Please be as­sured that ev­ery sin­gle board mem­ber, depart­ment head and county em­ployee has wres­tled with this dilemma for many months. None of us take our re­spon­si­bil­ity to the pub­lic lightly. The re­al­ity is that we will be forced to choose what level of ser­vice is nec­es­sary to pro­vide a safe and vi­able com­mu­nity and how we will pay for it.

As county com­mis­sion­ers, we spend many hours in train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion. From new com­mis­sioner train­ing through ad­vanced cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, we re­ceive over 100 hours of classes. Through­out this train­ing, we are en­cour­aged to make crit­i­cal de­ci­sions based a long term vi­sion for the county, fo­cus­ing on the en­tire county (not spe­cial in­ter­ests) and, above all, main­tain­ing high eth­i­cal stan­dards. It is within this frame­work that I base my per­spec­tive on bal­anc­ing the FY2011 bud­get.

The BOC has been given two pro­posed bud­gets. One re­tains the cur­rent mill­age rate of 9.73 — in ef­fect since 2000 — and re­flects a county M&O bud­get of $43,515,682. The sec­ond bud­get re­flects an in­crease to the mill­age rate of 10.9 — called a roll­back rate — and a county M&O bud­get of $46,307,275. I, along with my fel­low com­mis­sion­ers, have spent many hours dis­sect­ing this bud­get and dili­gently try­ing to find ways to make our govern­ment more ef­fi­cient. Both bud­gets re­flect a 15.6 per­cent de­crease in county ser­vices. How­ever, the ma­jor dif­fer­ence be­tween the two bud­gets is re­flected in funds that will be avail­able to the ju­di­cial sys­tem and the sher­iff’s of­fice. By main­tain­ing the mill­age at 9.73, I be­lieve the cuts to these two ar­eas of our govern­ment would be too se­vere and would put our cit­i­zens and our com­mu­nity in jeop­ardy. First and fore­most, we are tasked at pro­vid­ing a safe place to live, work and rear our fam­i­lies.

As a small busi­ness owner, I am par­tic­u­larly aware of the im­pact of an in­crease on that sec­tor. Yet, to keep the county afloat, all sec­tors in some way ought to be pre­pared to con­trib­ute. No one will es­cape the pain, and cer­tainly not those mak­ing the fi­nal de­ci­sion. But the al­ter­na­tive is unac- cept­able. We can­not af­ford the risk of be­com­ing an un­safe com­mu­nity. When a com­mu­nity is known for its un­safe rep­u­ta­tion, ev­ery­one suf­fers and our busi­nesses and eco­nomic fu­ture will be doomed to fail­ure.

I en­cour­age Newton Coun­tians, and my fel­low com­mis­sion­ers, to con­sider that steps nec­es­sary to en­sure the se­cu­rity of this com­mu­nity may, in fact, im­pact the busi­ness sec­tor. All of us can help to off­set this sit­u­a­tion by buy­ing lo­cally. If you leave the county to go to work, come back to Newton County to shop. Buy your gro­ceries, your cars, your com­puter sup­plies right here at home. Eat in our restau­rants. Per­haps if we work to­gether to find so­lu­tions to our bud­get cri­sis, next year we can re­duce the mill­age rate and still pro­vide the ser­vices needed to make Newton County the best and safest place to live in Ge­or­gia. Let us op­er­ate from a shared vi­sion of all that will ben­e­fit this com­mu­nity for years to come.

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