County to cut nine employees
Newton County must cut nine employees and two vacant positions in the $44.28 million budget the board of commissioners approved Tuesday. One worker will have a reduction in hours.
The board approved the personnel moves in executive session Tuesday.
The loss of Chief Financial Officer John Middleton, who announced in a separate move that he will resign effective Dec. 15, counts toward the nine position cuts. Middleton was one of 10 employees to voluntarily retire this year, though Chairman Kathy Morgan said he was not a budgeted cut.
Because of federal law regarding budget reductions, his position cannot be rehired during this fiscal year. Chairman Kathy Morgan said she and department heads will simply have to pick up the slack.
Public works will lose three employees, two mechanics and an equipment operator and will cut two vacant truck driver positions. The drivers had left earlier in the budget year.
The other cuts include a planning employee, landfill equipment operator, human resource specialist, animal control officer and recreation special events coordinator.
Morgan said all of the cuts but one were voluntary retirements. As of Thursday afternoon, she did not have a total budget savings, but noted that the county will be responsible for paying any unemployment. In addition, the board of commissioners agreed previously to give each retiring employee eight weeks of pay.
The county’s net tax digest declined by 8 percent this year to $2.17 billion, as property values declined for the third year. The tax digest is the value of all land, buildings, equipment and motor vehicles in the county.
As a result, tax revenues are expected to decline 7.95 percent to $23.7 million.
In other county news, the board approved taking out a $1.4 million tax anticipation note from J.P. Morgan Chase, the low bidder, at an interest rate of 0.94 percent.
Newton County has to borrow the money because it doesn’t have enough reserves to cover operating expenses during the few months of this fiscal year before property tax revenues begin to arrive in October.
County governments are dependent on property taxes for much of their revenue, but property tax bills are generally not mailed until the fall. As a result, counties have to depend on reserve fund to cover operating expenses from July through September, or take out a low-interest loan.
The note must be repaid before the end of the year. It’s the first tax anticipation loan the county has had to take in a handful of years, said Middleton.
Favorable interest rates are common tax anticipation notes, because they are short-term government loans.