With a vote Tuesday that followed the last of a dozen tax "rollback" hearings for four of the local government bodies in Columbia County, commissioners set their tax rates for the coming year.
Now that the county government, the school board and the cities of Harlem and Grovetown each have finished their series of hearings and approved their tax rates, what's the impact on your wallet?
It's a valid question - especially since virtually no one actually attended the hearings.
We all gripe about taxes, but it's sort of like the saying attributed to Mark Twain: Everyone complains about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it.
For Columbia County, however, that's not entirely true. Voters did stage a mild revolt June 19, rejecting the county's proposed Tax Abatement Districts. Even though the plan wouldn't have had an effect on most taxpayers, voters were still suspicious of the proposal - and commissioners did far too little to explain it to them.
But as the rollback hearings unfortunately show, even an attempt to explain such a subject draws scant attention.
See, the state requires every local government to reconcile the value of its taxable property each year with the local tax rate. If the value of property rises, and the government doesn't cut the tax rate by an equal amount, the state requires the local government to declare that it is raising taxes.
Then, each of those governments must hold hearings to explain the information to the public. The state requires that those forums be held - but it can't force citizens to attend them. So government officials generally spend a few minutes talking among themselves, as few citizens show up. And they eventually approve the tax rates as originally proposed anyway.
This year, all four government entities are proposing some small amount of tax-rate rollback, but not enough to offset the roughly 16 percent increase in the reassessed value of county property.
As a result, your taxes paid to the school board will rise 4.57 percent for maintenance and operations (M&O); county taxes will rise 4.74 percent for fire service, and 131.09 percent for debt service (a huge percentage, but a relatively tiny amount); Grovetown taxes will rise 8.72 percent for M&O; and Harlem taxes will rise 6.34 percent for M&O.
In other words, your tax bill is going up. How much depends on several factors, including the value of your property last year vs. how much the tax assessor says it's worth now, your age, and the location of the property (Grovetown has the highest total bills, the unincorporated county the lowest).
And from the sunniest possible perspective - which is the same as saying "grin and bear it" - the privilege of living in Columbia County is still a bargain.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.