01 August 2018

[MBM] - News of Newton: Property Tax Hike Avoided For The Moment; Egregious Behavior From Two Elected Officials?

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[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

(Covington, GA | 8/1/18) - 

At Monday night's budget meeting of the Newton Co. Board of Commissioners (BOC) it'd been a foregone conclusion that the millage rate for Newton County's Maintenance & Operations budget would be going up. However, word on the street started spreading during the day that BOC 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan had become open to a substitute budget that Stan Edwards, BOC 1 Commissioner, had put together that already had the support of the 3rd District Commissioner, Nancy Schulz.

And sure enough, the proposed budget funded by the higher millage that'd been publicly advertised was tabled w/ a 3-2 vote. Now the opportunity exists for everyone to work for a better solution. As has been mentioned by many - this publication included - in light of the major increases in assessments, Newtonians were already looking at a tax increase. If a rollback rate could not be achieved, it seemed irresponsible for there to be any increase in the millage especially once it was brought to light about the multiple vacant positions in several departments that were requesting additional positions. Also, many other examples of taxpayer waste was documented by Citizens For a Better Newton & other taxpayer advocates.

This was a win for the Newton Co. Taxpayers, but it obviously ruffled some feathers...

Both Marcello Banes & Lanier Sims, Chairman & BOC 2 Rep, respectively, "lose their cool"

The following has been verified by three sources:

Lanier Sims, after the meeting was adjourned, did allegedly curse Scott Jay, the Newton Co. GOP Chair, twice using the "F word," and was purported to have slapped away Jay's hand as he was attempting to shake hands with the commissioner. This seems to be borderline assault. One witness said the following - "everyone was just like...okay...WTF is happening here?"

Lanier Sims, BOC 2

Marcello Banes, Chairman of the BOC
But that was just part of it.

Marcello Banes, as confirmed by at least two people, did "bow up" to a Newton Co. taxpayer & "bumped up to him." He was also purportedly talking about race & racial issues in response to the BOC not voting for the budget with the increase. Also, he had to be separated by another individual two different times with two different people according to sources.

That all seems reminiscent of the last time around when the previous Chair, Keith Ellis, starting feeling the heat & seemingly wilted under the pressure. By the way, Keith Ellis is white. As one person mentioned to me, the pressure cooker that is Newton Co. politics is not for the faint of heart. When that pressure starts rising, mistakes start getting made. Just ask Keith, Levie Maddox & John Douglas from the last go-round. 

- Simms had not responded to an inquiry of these events by press time.

- Banes, when reached for comment, responded "No Comment." After another question asking why things devolved after the meeting, he responded - "I don't know."


I don't know if I've ever come across something so vexing or head-scratching as the behavior allegedly put on display Monday evening. As I've mentioned to several folks the last two days as I've been working on this story - does this mean that if you don't want higher taxes then you're a racist? My word...

This is absolutely unacceptable. This behavior - if true (and I believe it to be; otherwise I would't have run this story) - is embarrassing, unhealthy & undemocratic. It's 2018

Still, we don't have a tax increase just yet. Please engage with your representation on the Newton Co. BOC & let's see if we can pass a budget that is more responsible with the People's money.

As always, thanks for reading. 

- MB McCart