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Columbia County rolls back taxes, cites increased spending

Scott Dean

Chairman Scott Dean of the Management and Financial Services Committee says the raises and millage rate rollback are meant to help Columbia County citizens. (June 30, 2010 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 6 o'clock, June 30, 2010

EVANS, Ga.---Columbia County is reversing the tax trend. According to administrators, the county's sales tax income is up.

This April a record was set for incoming tax money and Wednesday the decision was made to cut a quarter of a mill from the millage rate for homeowners.

When Columbia County started looking at the budget in January, they were looking at what to cut. They did not expect for spending to spike and weren't planning on handing out tax roll backs.

Money, money, money...more people are spending it in Columbia County.

Titus Chen can see a difference. "I know that it's been hard with the recession and everything. Retailers have been hit, restaurants have been hit," says Titus Chen, from Grovetown.

Wednesday morning Columbia County approved a quarter of a mill roll back to the millage rate. Meaning homeowners will be paying less.

Carol McWhorter likes the sound of that. "I think it's great. I hope it keeps up and they do it every year. Any little break we can get with our taxes would be great with me," says Carol McWhorter, of Evans.

The break is coming from a jump in consumer spending and county cost cutting measures that over time, have added up.

"Sales tax numbers are up and have been for the last 3-4 months," says Commission Chairman Ron Cross.

In April, the county brought in a record breaking $1.5 million in sales tax.

"That's really a combination of more opportunities to shop in Columbia County and increasing population," adds Cross.

It's a spike they weren't expecting. "We were for several months looking at the other side of the coin that we would have to cut more," says Cross.

"It's just great news for everybody that the economy is turning around. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel," says Chen.

In 2009 the average home cost $192,000, meaning a savings of a little more than $15 dollars.

"It's not a great roll back but it's a good gesture that we are well managed, we're strong financially," says Cross.

It may not be much, but many say it's a step in the right direction.

"Great news...anything that will put money back in our pocket will be great," says McWhorter.

"We're quite fortunate and we need to count our blessings that things are doing well in Columbia County," says Chen.

They also approved merit raises for county employees. Each division will be given 2 percent of it's budget for performance raises.

They have a policy to keep the reserve at a healthy level, not too low and not too high. They hit the maximum at the 180 day reserve and had to do something with that money, their options were to spend it or give it back to the homeowners.

(Note: Corrected to read "quarter of a mill" instead of "quarter of a million" in second paragraph.)

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