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County moves to raise street light fees

Posted: Sunday, August 23, 2009

Columbia County commissioners Tuesday passed the first reading of a resolution to increase street light fees by $11.

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Street light fees are levied each year against those residing within street light districts and are added to residents' property tax bill.

After an internal audit, officials decided to raise the fee for the first time in 16 years from $43 per household to $54.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross said all county taxpayers are subsidizing the cost to keep the lights on and that the deficit is growing. Currently, the deficit is about $500,000, but could grow to $2 million if action is not taken, officials recently said.

A final reading of the resolution likely will be heard on Sept. 1.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners instituted a moratorium on spending more than $50,000 on capital purchases for the remainder of the year.

The moratorium is a cost-cutting measure due to a delay in tax collections, according to county documents.

Typically, property tax payments in Columbia County are due on Nov. 15. Because of a three-month delay in sending out tax assessment notices, officials reset the deadline for Jan. 15.

The delay was caused by the need for the county Tax Assessor's Office to upgrade software due to the passage of House Bill 233, which imposes a moratorium on property assessment increases for the next three years.

Though property taxes can't increase, the law does not freeze the value of properties that decrease in value. Properties sold during the moratorium period are taxed at their moratorium value, unless improvements are made.

The Tax Assessor's Office has had to undergo an extensive software upgrade to reconcile the changes, and tax officials were late sending out the notices. Those notices were mailed Aug. 14.

Commissioners also decided that when Animal Care and Control moves next year to a new building on Chamblin Road, it will do so under a new name.

The department will be called Animal Services once the move is completed.

Officials wanted approval for the name change prior to the construction of the project so signs and paperwork would match. Also, the new name better matches the names of other county departments such as Development Services and Financial Services, they said.



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