This could have been a nail-biter week for Columbia County taxpayers.
On Monday, Grovetown and Harlem city councils met to set their tax rates for next year.
Then, on Tuesday, the Columbia County Commission and the School Board were to set their tax rates.
Taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief. With the exception of a modest Grovetown increase, local governments are holding the line on taxes.
That's good news, and it comes even though state budget cuts continue to push costs down to local cities and counties, and federal "stimulus" programs have brought only spotty benefits (at the as-yet-untallied cost to future, voiceless generations, we should add).
Any government effort at frugality is welcome, especially as taxpayers continue to feel the pinch from a still-tough economy. They're having to live within their means; so should the government.
Along those lines, Columbia County officials are setting a good example with a program to squeeze personnel costs. Their efforts this year have cut the county's payroll by more than $300,000.
How? It's not complicated. They've done it by keeping an eye on restructuring possibilities every time there's a vacant county job, rather than simply maintaining status quo and filling every opening.
When a position becomes vacant, a panel of county officials review the position to see if the duties can be handled with less expense. Sometimes it's a matter of giving an existing employee higher pay rather than refilling the vacancy, while other cases it means realigning entire departments.
"What we're trying to do is exponentially reduce our payroll," Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson told News Editor Donnie Fetter. "We're doing it by attrition, by merging departments, by reviewing positions, by hiring delays and just good management practices."
Let's hope there's more where that came from. It's easy enough to criticize government's natural tendency to grow by inertia; in this case, it's good to see county officials making an effort to put on the brakes.
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