An almost $41 million budget for the coming fiscal year was approved by Columbia County Commissioners on Tuesday.
The $40,811,916 budget for the fiscal year 2004-05 is a 3.39 percent increase over last year.
The general fund calls for $25,2 million to fund personnel costs, almost $1.3 million more than last year. Operating expenses increased 2.47 percent to nearly $14 million - more than $330,000 from the previous year. The county saved almost $300,000 over last year in capital expenditures, which is set at $1.6 million for the 2004-05 fiscal year.
Though there won't be a property tax increase to supplement the general fund, commissioners intend to raise the mill rate to fund fire service in the county.
Commissioners voted last year to replace fire department subscription fees with a property tax increase, but the mill increase has not been set yet, Columbia County Financial Services Division Director Leanne DeLoach said.
DeLoach said she expects the rate increase could be 1.62 or 1.68 mills, depending on the county's tax digest, which arrives next month.
Residents inside the Grovetown and Harlem city limits will not be affected by the increase in compliance with an agreement reached between the cities and the counties earlier this year.
"We're not having a tax increase, but a substitution," Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said. "The intent of the tax is to make sure everyone pays."
The tax digest is expected to jump 6.5 percent, adding $1,064,648 to property tax revenues, according to county officials.
State law requires county leaders to hold three public meetings, expected to take place in July, to inform the public of any property tax or tax digest increases.
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