With few members of the public in attendance, it took just eight minutes for Columbia County commissioners to present the county's proposed $57 million budget for next year at Tuesday's public hearing.
The budget as presented Tuesday cuts in half a previous proposal for raises for county employees and includes requests for 10 new hires.
It also would pay each commissioner a monthly car allowance of $250.
"The purpose of this hearing is to allow the public to ask questions and get input," County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said.
The only people in the government complex auditorium were county employees, members of the media and a handful of people who were waiting for a later meeting on the Marshall Square development.
Finance Director Leanne Deloach said the county's tax digest is expected to grow by just 1.5 percent next year, but for budgeting purposes the county is setting expenditures as if tax revenues would remain flat.
Already this year, growth in sales tax revenue has slowed to just 1 percent, she said.
In an earlier draft of the budget, commissioners were proposing a 4 percent merit pay increase for county employees.
The version presented Tuesday cut that proposal to 2 percent, reducing the expense by $278,375.
Despite also adding a 2 percent pay increase for fire personnel, a reduction in the fire department's budget to match the current year's expenses reduces the budget by another $86,000.
The addition of the commissioners' car allowance would add $15,000 to the budget.
In total, the proposal is just .04 percent higher than the current budget, DeLoach said.
The proposed budget is expected to be studied in greater detail at a meeting Tuesday at 10 a.m., with the final budget set for review by commissioners at 6 p.m. May 19.
Adoption of the budget is scheduled for June 2.
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