No tax cut for city res­i­dents

City to in­vest more in pub­lic safety

The Covington News - - Front page - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­

The Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil mulled giv­ing cit­i­zens a tax break this year, but af­ter go­ing through the bud­get and hear­ing the state of each depart­ment, the coun­cil ul­ti­mately chose to spend that $244,000 on pub­lic safety.

The coun­cil ap­proved a mil­lage rate of 8.208 — the same rate the city’s had for sev­eral years — at Mon­day’s coun­cil meet­ing.

At its first bud­get work ses­sion April 30, the coun­cil dis­cussed pos­si­bly cut­ting the mil­lage rate by half a mill, which City Man­ager Leigh Anne Knight es­ti­mated would cost the city $244,000 in tax rev­enue. For a home val­ued at $150,000, the re­duc­tion would rep­re­sent a sav­ings of $30 in Cov­ing­ton taxes ($492.48 re­duced to $462.48).

At the April meet­ing, Knight said sev­eral items and projects had been cut out of the pro­posed bud­get, and she asked the coun­cil to hear from depart­ment heads be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion.

Coun­cil­man Chris Smith, who ini­tially raised the idea of a tax break, said Tues­day, the coun­cil de­cided to in­vest in pub­lic safety, and part or all of the money will be used to buy more po­lice ve­hi­cles for the depart­ment’s As­signed Of­fi­cer pro­gram. The pro­gram needs 17 ve­hi­cles to com­plete the pro­gram.

“That was the dif­fer­ence in cut­ting the mil­lage rate half a mill or fin­ish­ing the (As­signed Of­fi­cer) pro­gram, and we agreed with (fin­ish­ing the pro­gram). We’re com­mit­ted to pub­lic safety and do­ing what’s best for the com­mu­nity,”

Smith said.

The Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Depart­ment has 54 of­fi­cers and the As­signed Of­fi­cer pro­gram as­signs a sep­a­rate ve­hi­cle to each of­fi­cer, Po­lice Chief Stacey Cot­ton said Tues­day. While the ini­tial ve­hi­cle costs are higher, the goal of the pro­gram is to im­prove ve­hi­cle longevity, both by giv­ing cars time to rest, so they’re not run­ning con­stantly and by hold­ing of­fi­cers ac­count­able for the con­di­tion of their cars, he said pre­vi­ously. Of­fi­cers get to drive cars to and from work but can’t drive them for per­sonal use.

Cot­ton said pre­vi­ously, cars would get worn out af­ter 70,000 miles, around two years, but un­der this pro­gram, cars and other ve­hi­cles will last six to seven years.

An­other fu­ture cost sav­ing is that the newly pur- chased ve­hi­cles will be dual-fuel ve­hi­cles, able to run on both gaso­line and com­pressed nat­u­ral gas (CNG). The ve­hi­cles will cost more up front, but they’ll save money over their life be­cause the gal­lon equiv­a­lent of CNG is much cheaper than gaso­line, of­fi­cials have said pre­vi­ously.

Cot­ton said of­fi­cials are work­ing on spec­i­fi­ca­tions for the ve­hi­cles now and will plan to bid them out soon.

Mayor Ron­nie John­son said the coun­cil also wanted to help the po­lice depart­ment by pro­vid­ing money for two ad­di­tional of­fi­cers and new and im­proved cam­eras for cars. The ve­hi­cles, of­fi­cers and equip­ment add up to much more than $244,000, but the money will help pay those costs. Other briefs

• Res­i­dent Bob Atkin­son said the CSX rail­road cross­ing over Al­covy Road near Fibervi­sions is get­ting bad again and needs to be re­paired.

Deputy City Man­ager Billy Bouchillon said the city can’t re­pair it be­cause it be­longs to CSX, but he said city of­fi­cials would fol­low-up with CSX.

• The Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil also of­fi­cially voted to re­di­rect $93,000 to re­tail and small busi­ness re­cruit­ment ef­forts. Mayor John­ston pre­vi­ously raised the idea for the re­cruit­ment po­si­tion, which is most likely go­ing to be con­tracted out to the cham­ber.

The $93,000 was pre­vi­ously spent on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­forts with Elec­tric Cities of Ge­or­gia, a group that pro­vides var­ied ser­vices to cities that sell elec­tric­ity. John­ston said, and ul­ti­mately, the coun­cil felt that money could be bet­ter used lo­cally.

• Coun­cil­woman Hawnethia Wil­liams earned a Cer­tifi­cate of Dis­tinc­tion from the Ge­or­gia Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion for to­tal­ing 204 hours of train­ing.

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