Columbia County's four government agencies met last week to set the 2010 property tax millage.
County commissioners voted at a Tuesday meeting to lower the millage in the unincorporated areas of the county a quarter mill to 9.387.
Commissioners voted to lower the tax rate despite a 1 percent drop in the tax digest. The tax digest -- the taxable value of all real property in the county -- decreased from $4.12 billion in 2009 to $4.09 billion in 2010. The digest experienced a $102 million decrease in property reassessments.
Until the rate decrease for 2010, the millage has remained steady at 9.637 since 2007.
"Overall, I think our millage rate ranks quite favorably with our benchmark counties," county Administrator Steve Szablewski said, adding that the county's rate is lower than five out of seven Georgia counties with similar populations.
Cross partly attributes leaders' ability to lower the tax rate to forced budget cuts in recent years. It has enabled county departments and staff to "operate efficiently on a lesser amount of money, which is the trend," he said.
Even though the school system will be losing more than $700,000 in property tax revenues because of the drop in the tax digest, the Columbia County school board voted Tuesday to keep its millage at 17.09 mills.
To make up the lost revenue, school officials likely will dip into their reserve fund of about $26 million.
Superintendent Charles Nagle said he expects to earn about $67 million from property taxes this year, with about $100 million more coming from state and federal funding sources.
Since 2007, the school system has lost about $21 million in state funding, including a $6 million loss for this school year.
Grovetown residents will not see a tax increase as city officials voted Monday to keep the 2010 tax rate the same at 7 mills.
The 2010 tax digest grew by about $2 million to $199 million because of $6 million in additional construction, not an increase in reassessed property values. The growth is expected to add about $10,000 in tax revenue.
Harlem officials also voted Monday to keep the city millage the same as 2009 at 5.35 mills, said Jason Rizner, city manager.
The city tax digest grew almost $1 million to $52.4 million in 2010, adding almost $5,000 in expected tax revenue.
Like Grovetown, Harlem experienced new growth, but property values decreased.
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