News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday June 7, 2011
EVANS, Ga.---They say they've done it again. Columbia County leaders approve a budget tonight that, for the second year in a row... lowers taxes.
Columbia County schools may be raising taxes, but it looks like county commissioners can help cut that tax increase in half and many taxpayers are saying, it couldn't come at a better time.
It's the second year in a row Columbia County has been able to cut taxes and pass the savings onto the homeowners. The announcement comes just weeks after the school board announced they'll be raising taxes.
In a time when most counties and school districts are struggling to balance the budget, it looks like Columbia County will be able to give money back to it's taxpayers.
Cathy Pennington says now, more than ever, people are paying attention to every penny. "I think more people are really getting more involved because of the way the economy is," says Cathy.
Even as a teacher, Cathy struggled with the school board's decision to raise taxes for next year. "These people that depend on that are really living paycheck to paycheck, you can't cut those people," says Cathy.
"It kinda throws people for a loop and they're not too sure what their politics and government are doing," adds homeowner David Kriegel.
But county leaders say the Columbia County government revenues are actually up a little, and for the second year they plan to cut taxes.
"We're reducing taxes and still being able to keep up with the same amount of services that we had in the past," says Columbia County Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson.
It's the tenth year in a row the county has not raised taxes.
"That's one thing that's nice about Columbia County. That tells me that possibly, maybe our commissioners are doing a good job and not spending as much as other counties are," says David.
In July the school board will likely raise the millage rate by .50 mill. That same month Columbia County commissioners are set to lower the same rate by .25 mill.
So where does all the addition and subtraction leave homeowners? It still comes down to a .25 mill increase. That's about 12 dollars for a $100,000 dollar home.
"I'll take the roll back, no matter what it is," says David.
But not everyone is so optimistic. "My opinion, it's going to get worse before it gets better. We haven't hit bottom yet," adds Cathy.
County leaders say, aside from the tax cut, the biggest change with next year's budget is a half a million dollar increase in fire service for unincorporated parts of Columbia County... like Harlem.
The budget got approval tonight.... but the actual millage rate will not be set until July.
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