The Columbia County Commission approved a slight decrease in property taxes Tuesday.
The commission agreed to a quarter-mill cut in taxes, which will become official after a 9 a.m. hearing in the Evans Government Center on July 27.
With the overall millage lowered to 9.387, county residents will save $9.50 on a $100,000 home or $19.50 on a $200,000 home. The rollback will reduce county revenue by $1.2 million.
Higher than anticipated growth in the tax digest and a healthy reserve fund made the reduction possible, officials said.
When commissioners approved the county's nearly $54.1 million general fund budget in June, they did so with the expectation of zero growth in sales tax revenues. Instead, those revenues grew by 0.3 percent and gave a surprise boost to the tax digest.
At more than $1.3 million, the 12-month average for sales tax collections is the highest it has ever been. Five percent of those collections supply a portion of the county's general fund.
Commissioners are obligated to pay off debt or return to taxpayers any money that exceeds the county's reserve fund cap of about $27.5 million under a rule they approved last month.
Had the commission not lowered the millage rate, tax revenues likely would have exceeded the cap.
In addition to a tax cut, the added revenues also prompted the commission to add more than $350,000 to this year's budget for employee merit raises.
Those employed with the county for more than a year may receive up to a 2 percent raise, but one commissioner thought they should get no extra pay.
"I just don't feel good about (it)," Commissioner Charles Allen said of the raises.
Considering the county's unemployment rate still is higher than normal, area teachers are losing money due to furlough days and slashed state funding, and that many employees received raises last year, Allen said the raise is unwarranted.
Other commissioners said county employees have been asked to work harder to compensate for budget and personnel cuts and deserve more compensation.
Employee performance re-views, which determine the size of the raise, start in October, but any raises won't go into effect until January.
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