All four Columbia County taxing agencies will not change their millage this year, despite raising property assessments.
Officials from Harlem, Grovetown, Columbia County and the Board of Education agreed to not rollback their millage after holding several public meetings on the issue.
Grovetown officials approved an unchanged millage for 2006 in the last of three public rollback hearings Monday. The meetings are required by the state if a governing body doesn't roll back the millage to offset added taxes as a result of recent property tax reassessments.
Members of the Grovetown City Council voted to keep the city's millage at 4.64 for this year. City Clerk Shirley Beasley said she expects the city to collect $147,885 more in taxes this year than the $467,000 collected last year. The city's tax digest grew from $100,787,384 in 2005 to $132,659,223 in 2006 because of new residents and reassessments.
Beasley said city officials did not roll back the millage because the extra taxes collected will help the city keep up with the needed infrastructure such as water and sewer projects and personnel for the growing city without having to dip into the $94,000 in surplus funds needed to balance the city's budget.
"We can keep our surplus," Beasley said. "If you keep going into the well, it'll run dry."
Harlem officials also voted Monday to leave the city's millage unchanged for 2006. The city rate will remain at 5.42 mills. City Manager Jean Dove said she expects to collect $19,775 more this year than the $178,067 collected in 2005.
Like Grovetown, the extra collected funds from Harlem residents will be used to offset rising costs of transportation and for needed infrastructure for the growing city, Mayor Scott Dean said.
Harlem's millage has remained uncharged since 2003, when it was rolled back from 5.5 mills.
Columbia County commissioners approved an unchanged millage for the coming year's property taxes Tuesday.
Commissioners voted unanimously without any discussion to keep the rate of 9.38 mills for unincorporated areas. The approval came after the state-required three public rollback hearings.
In some cases, although the millage wasn't increased, some homeowners will still see a higher property tax bill because their home was reassessed at a higher value.
To have a rollback this year, the county would have needed to come up with about $1.9 million, county officials said. The county millage was last changed in 2004, when it went from 7.70 to 9.38 in the unincorporated areas, according to county documents.
The Columbia County school board voted in a Tuesday meeting to keep the extra revenue generated by an increase in the tax digest and not roll back the millage.
The county's tax digest jumped nearly 4 percentage points from last year for a total of 14.26 percent, which equates to nearly $7 million in additional revenue for the school system.
"It's the highest I can remember," Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price said of the tax digest growth. "I don't think it's gone up that much in a while."
School officials initially projected a growth rate of 10 percent, which would have left the board about $2 million short of its $151 million budget for the upcoming school year.
The extra four percentage points gave the board the $2 million they needed to balance the budget, school system Controller Pat Sullivan said. No one other than school officials attended Tuesday morning's rollback hearing at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
News Editor Preston Sparks and Staff Writer Donnie Fetter contributed to this article.
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