Columbia County budget could lead to lower tax

Columbia County commissioners met Tuesday night to discuss a proposed 2007-08 budget that, if approved, could make room for a potential tax rate rollback.

The proposed operating budget of $52.9 million, which won't be adopted until June 5, is 9.63 percent, or $4.6 million, higher than the current fiscal year's.

Despite the increase, the budget could still make possible a 0.29 mill rollback in the county's rate, which currently is 9.38 mills.

Any rollback of the tax rate won't be considered until after the budget's adoption and will follow three rollback hearings set for 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. July 10 and 5:30 p.m. July 17, all at the Evans Government Center auditorium.

The hearings are required because only part of the county's millage - that of maintenance and operations at 7.7 mills - is being considered for the partial rollback. The other portion of the tax rate, for fire service, would remain at 1.68.

Previously, county officials said they would have to free up about $1 million to make the rollback a reality. Leanne DeLoach, the county's finance director, said Tuesday that county officials were working to take about $400,000 in new hire and capital requests out of the budget.

She said the remaining amount would mostly be made up with sales tax revenue gains.

"That's how we're able to do the rollback," she said.

The budget also is based on a projected tax digest increase of about 10 percent for the next year.

Should a partial rollback be approved in July, some homeowners still might see their property tax payments increased or reduced slightly, depending on property reassessments.

County officials have said a one mill decrease in the millage for a $100,000 home with an unchanged reassessment would save about $40 in property taxes for a year. A 0.29 mill rollback would save about one-third of that amount.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.