Different views of consolidation

By: Stephanie Baker
By: Stephanie Baker

It's a project that's supposed to bring the county together. Some lawmakers say uniting Columbia County under one government won't happen this year. Others say maybe it will.

News 12 is on your side with some possible reasons for the confusion, and what it can all mean for your bank account.

One county, one government. That's been the goal of the county since last fall. If it happens, people like Jose Rodriguez would pay more for their utilities, bringing millions of dollars to the county.

"I think it's good for Columbia County as a whole."

That's why county administrator Steve Szablewski is hopeful state lawmakers will give the power to the people.

"The decision for them is to allow us to put it on the ballot in November and let the citizens of Columbia County decide."

The problem is, not everyone is on the same page. Commissioner Steve Brown said Tuesday the county will stay as it as, at least for another year.

When asked him when he knew that consolidation would be off, he replied: "Last week."

If it is off, the county has to figure out a way to make up for the five million dollars they're counting on.

If consolidation isn't approved, then the funding for county projects, such as improvements to parts of Washington Road, could come out of your pocketbook.

Property taxes may go up to cover the cost. Discussing the pros and cons has been hard for commissioners since lawmakers are in session in Atlanta. Representative Barry Fleming isn't convinced it will be good for his district.

"I don't think people in those areas are in favor of consolidation. So far, it's the way it's presented."

The county administrator thinks it could still make the ballot. A commissioner says it won't. And lawmakers like Fleming still have questions. So where does consolidation stand? And will homeowners like Jose Rodriguez end up paying more taxes?

We'll know for sure in a few weeks. The legislative session ends next month.

Lawmakers have until then to make a final decision. If it's not approved, citizens will get to vote on whether to raise property taxes on a referendum in November.


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