- est 2010 -
Greetings & Salutations, Georgia Piedmonters, and we sure hope all is lovely out there this Memorial Day Weekend as we all pause to remember those who gave all, the ultimate sacrifice.
Another week in the books here in our fair neck of the woods & not a whole lot really going on. Whereas you can check out a couple of the other local publications for your fix of crime & punishment or fluff pieces, as you already know, we just concentrate on the REAL Story here. So let's dig in.
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Proposed Millage Increase
At this past Tuesday's BOC meeting, county manager Loyd Kerr informed the board that an additional mill would need to be added to bring the Newton Co. millage rate up to 14.441 mills to fully fund the county M & O budget.
First off, some of you may be asking - what's a mill? A mill is one out of a thousand, or a tenth of a cent. So a 14.441 millage rage would equal .014441 in regular decimal format. You take that rate & it apply it to the total assessed property in Newton Co. & that would give you the budget requirement. In this case, they came up with a budget requirement & then adopted the millage rate that would generate that amount of revenue.
So, what is that proposed budget amount? Appox. $66 million. Seems like a lot, no? Well, it is a lot, and it is over 10% higher than last year's budget. It would be, as we understand it, the highest one-year budget increase this county has seen in a long time. And that's on top of the increase in property assessments that we've been seeing & that this publication has written about a couple of times the last few weeks. Though they won't fully know until the end of June, right now it is looking like an increase of pushing 10% for assessments as well. So this will really be a double tax increase for the good people of Newton Co. By the way, if it's only an 8 to 10% increase overall on valuations, then that means some folks must be getting some sweet deals because, as we've covered before, there are a lot of folks who have been seeing 20 - 200% increases out there...
Part of the reasoning for such a large budget increases is that Newton Co. employees, according to Kerr, have not gotten a pay increase in a decade. That, we're almost fully positive, is simply an untrue statement. Regardless, an across-the-board wage increase of "at least 5 percent" is included in this behemoth of a budget. That just seems irresponsible to us at this time. Also, over a million dollars of this increase is for new public-safety personnel, including 11 deputies & 4 jailers for the NCSO. That's interesting, because based on our information, the NCSO cannot fill the spots they currently have budgeted because they've lost so many people the last several months. Also, let's not forget that the Sheriff's office is on track to spend upwards of half a million dollars on legal fees to Wm Thomas Craig, Esq.
Now some folks may very well read this piece & scoff or otherwise discount what is being said. They'll say that we just don't understand the finer points & inner workings of government & its funding. And that's fine. This publication, like most reasonable folks, understands that you've got to have government, but what many are looking for is good, responsible & efficient government. But I've got a real problem with how things are being done. Our tax base is so out of whack right now & with all of these incentive packages we've been doling out left & right, that is only going to continue to worsen. And that's a fact. Even the folks on the ED train will admit to that.
What we're doing is this - we are sticking it to the regular folks & locals who've invested in real estate, particularly commercial & non-agricultural raw land. I've seen the tax bills. You've got tons of folks out there paying tens of thousands of dollars in ad valorem taxes that shouldn't be dealing with such a disproportionate burden. It's just not right. And woe to those poor bastards up & down 278 who will now be having to pay an additional millage for that CID that will almost equal what they have to pay for their city taxes.
It's really kind of an existential & philosophical situation. What is, truly, the proper role of government? Are all of those line items on what may become a $66 million dollar budget really needed to properly execute & fund the proper role of our county government? I'd think probably not. Because here's the rub - despite some improvement, overall, our economy - and our local economy - is still somewhat unhealthy. Yeah, it's all roses & rainbows for some. The big corporations & maybe some of the folks working for the government, quasi-government & corporate jobs, but I'm talking about the heart & soul of our county - our contractors, the local retailers, professionals, small-business owners, etc. Cost of goods & overhead keep going up, up, up; margins keep going down. It's not unlike how it is for folks in general. We all know we are paying more for lower quantities at the grocery. That's been going on for years. Health insurance. Medical costs. Prescriptions. Other insurance. Utilities (and just wait, Covington - Vogle looms ever so large on the horizon). Gasoline, and always that ever-growing hidden tax of inflation.
As someone recounted to me a while back about a conversation they had with someone about this current state of affairs - it just feels like things are slipping away. Porter Stansberry & others have opined about this general sense of malaise as one of the key factors behind all of the upheaval & concerning trends we've been seeing. Things aren't as they should be.
We've got to do better, and it starts right here & right now. We've got to hold our local governments more accountable.
And that's the ole .02