Columbia County officials tentatively decided Wednesday to lower taxes while increasing employee pay.
Commissioners voted during a Management and Financial Services Committee meeting to drop the tax rate by a quarter mill to 9.387. The tax cut won't be official until the full board approves it Tuesday.
A quarter mill equates to a $19.50 tax cut on a home worth $200,000.
Officials said growing sales tax revenues and a healthy reserve fund made the rollback possible. In May, the county collected $1.47 million, up from $1.16 million in May 2009.
The county's reserve fund is more than $27.5 million, which allows 180 days of operating capital in case of an emergency.
Commissioners voted this month that any revenues exceeding the reserve cap would be used to pay debt or lower the millage.
A healthy stream of revenue from sales taxes can be used to pay debt, County Administrator Steve Szablewski told commissioners. Thus, he recommended lowering taxes.
Commissioners also gave tentative approval to adding more than $350,000 into next year's budget for employee merit raises.
When officials formulated the budget for the new fiscal year, which starts today, they expected flat growth in the county's tax digest and included no funds for raises. They also took $500,000 out of the budget in case the tax digest dwindled.
Since then, officials have learned the tax digest likely will grow by 0.3 percent.
Employees must have worked for the county at least a year to be eligible for a raise. The raises will be capped at 2 percent, and the amount will be determined after employee evaluations in October.