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Millage rates to be set at tax hearings

Posted: July 14, 2013 - 12:06am

Two of Columbia County’s four property tax-funded entities are conducting public hearings with intentions of raising the millage rate.

State law requires government agencies that levy property taxes to conduct three public hearings before setting a higher property tax rate.

This year, the Columbia County school board and the city of Harlem will raise rates, while Columbia County and Grovetown will not.

The increased rates in the county will raise the taxes for a $175,000 home by $70. The increase will raise tax bills for Harlem residents, who are subject to both increases, by about $210, according to Peter Chong, an accountant with the Columbia County Tax Commissioner’s Office.

The school board recently decided to raise the millage rate from 17.590 to 18.590 to make up for a $5 million shortfall in the $177 million budget.

For the 2013-14 budget, the state is hitting the county with a combination of funding cuts and mandated health insurance increases that, after the system dips into its reserves, still leaves a gap of nearly $5 million. The tax digest grew from $4.004 million in 2012 to $4.092 million in 2013.

The final hearing will be held at the Columbia County Board of Education office in Evans at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Board members expect to set the new millage rate at the semimonthly meeting on July 23.

Harlem officials plan to raise the city’s millage rate for the first time in several years, City Administrator Jason Rizner said. The millage will increase two mills from 5.350 to 7.350. Rizner said the increase helps to make up for operating funds lost in recent Local Option Sales Tax negotiations. The percentage the city receives of collected LOST funds dropped from 5 percent to 3.5 percent this year and will drop to 2.5 percent in 2018.

“We’re dealing with a decline in LOST revenue,” Rizner said. “LOST is a very large percentage of our budget, a much larger percentage of our revenue than property taxes. We’re needing to make up some additional revenue to make up for that decrease.”

The digest grew from $52.1 million to $54.8 million in 2013. The increase is expected to bring in $402,887 in revenue compared to the $279,176 collected for 2012.

The final public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. at City Hall on Louisville Road and the millage rate will be set Monday at 6:15 p.m.

The Columbia County Commission plans to leave the county’s 6.402 millage rate unchanged. The digest grew from 4.2 billion to 4.3 billion and is expected to bring in $27,532,094 for 2013.

County Finance Director Leanne Reece said the increase doesn’t meet the criteria to require rollback hearings. A meeting to set the unchanged millage rate will be held at 9 a.m. July 23 at the Government Center auditorium in Evans.

Grovetown’s millage rate also will remain unchanged. The rate increased from 5.640 to 7 mills in 2009 and will remain at 7 mills for 2013.

The city’s digest grew from $222.7 million in 2012 to $234.1 million in 2013. That growth is expected to lead to $1.638 million in revenue.

City officials will set the millage rate at a 6 p.m. meeting on July 22 at City Hall.

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