18 June 2020

Newton Co. Set to Approve $15 million in New Spending at Special Called Meeting Tonight; Recap of Proposed FY 2021 Budget (Ain't Lookin' Good...)

From our friends at Citizens or a Better Newton:

The BOC is considering two projects that will cost us $15 million. Anyone interested? See meeting notice below.
WHO: Newton County Board of Commissioners
WHAT: Special Called Meeting
WHEN: Thursday, June 18, 2020 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Historic CourthouseCommissioner’s Boardroom1124 Clark StreetCovington, GA 30014

SUBJECT: 1. Discussion/Considerationof Contract with Motorola for the 911 Radio System. ($14.5 million)
2. Discussion/Considerationof Cornerstone Security, Inc. – dba Cornerstone Control Systems ($457,000)

 In re the Newton Co. FY 2021 Budget, also from CFBN: 

The Newton Board of Commissioners (BOC) considered the FY 2021 Budget and other ‘big ticket” spending at its June 16, 2020 meeting. The meeting included a public hearing on the proposed FY 2021 budget last night but public comments were limited as usual. The BOC is about to approve a $75.4 million budget in the face of uncertain financial conditions. Only Commissioners Schulz and Edwards seem to have any concerns about that. Taxpayers should prepare for no reduction in the millage rate despite increasing property values.

As usual, the big expense is public safety. The Sheriff alone controls about 38% of the total county budget and he is never shy about asking for more money. His proposed jail budget of $12.9 million is $1.1 million more than the current year even though there has been no increase in the jail inmate population. As usual, he also has $360,000 budgeted next year for legal services, most of which will go to Tommy Craig. And, last night, Sheriff Brown proposed year end spending of $457,000 for some sort of fire alarm system from Cornerstone Security. Is that money in his budget? Not sure about that.
The Sheriff is not the only one requesting more money in FY 2021. The county is planning to spend $2.3 million for new employees and several other departments and constitutional offices are requesting significant increases next year. The Probate Court is asking for a 26% increase, the District Attorney wants a 22% increase and the Animal Services Department is asking for 24% more. Several other departments have asked for 10% or more additional money.
The other item on the agenda last night was purchase of a new radio communication system for our public safety agencies. No one apparently doubts the need for that but at a cost of $14.5 million, it’s difficult to understand just how it will be paid for. Supposely, there is $6 million (?) in SPLOST funding but the county manager did not provide a sound plan for the rest of the money.
Big spending decisions like these need to be closely monitored by the public because it is our money! The BOC will again consider the $14.5 million radio system and the $457,000 Cornerstone Security alarm system at a special called meeting Thursday June 18, 2020. You all should be there!

Remember, citizen apathy is the best friend of bad government.