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Columbia County gives tentative approval to tax cut for homeowners, pay raises for employees

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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.

Richmond County

Richmond County sales tax collections increased by about $200,000 in May from April.

The county collected $3,356,115 in May, $3,132,678 in April and $2,897,277 in March.

May's collection was the highest since September. Still, the past 11 months of collections are about $1.3 million less than they were during the same 11-month period last fiscal year.

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Dixieman
15999
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Dixieman 06/30/10 - 10:13 am
0
0
I LOVE living in CC!

I LOVE living in CC!

Chillen
17
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Chillen 06/30/10 - 10:20 am
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Notice the word

Notice the word "tentatively". That is for 2 reasons.

1. That leaves them with the option to not do it once the election is over (right now this is helping Ron Cross with his re-election bid **Go McGuire!**).

2. That allows them to give the government employees raises (in the midst of a massive, massive recession I might add) without everyone in the community raising a fuss. They can simply tell us, well, we aren't raising your taxes. Once the raises are finalized, look for them to cancel the "tentative" plans to lower our mill rate.

I'll believe it when I see the bill. I think this is all political pandering to help Ron Cross & push through government employee raises.

731
Points
Barry Paschal 06/30/10 - 10:27 am
0
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Chillen: This action is

Chillen: This action is labeled "tentative" because it comes as a recommendation from a county committee, not from the full board of commissioners. It goes before the full commission at its regular meeting next Tuesday and will receive formal approval then. All of that is standard procedure for every commission action, which gets committee review prior to commission approval or rejection.

Chillen
17
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Chillen 06/30/10 - 10:38 am
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Barry: Regardless, this

Barry: Regardless, this reeks of political pandering. Anyone with sense can see that. Ron Cross is trying to "buy" his re-election and justify government employee raises. I'm not buying it, and frankly, I'll bet no one else is either.

Tots
26087
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Tots 06/30/10 - 11:06 am
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Just be glad you live in

Just be glad you live in Columbia county.

Chillen
17
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Chillen 06/30/10 - 11:22 am
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tots, believe me, I am most

tots, believe me, I am most of the time. But I am still allowed to point out when politicians make changes at odd times for political gain. Look at the posts from yesterday on the article talking about this.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/2010-06-29/columbia-county-...

There were 7 posts. One was mine in support of CC lowering taxes. One didn't say either way. Five said it was all for Ron Cross' political gain. And they are right.

johncody
0
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johncody 06/30/10 - 11:49 am
0
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Is this principled

Is this principled government? Ron Cross is starting to feel a little heat from Brett Mcguire so he adopts his feared opponents platform. Mr. Cross if the millage rates were to high to begin with, why wait until two weeks from an election to lower it.

Steven Lawrence
0
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Steven Lawrence 06/30/10 - 12:14 pm
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I could not agree more with

I could not agree more with you John. Brett Mcguire has been campaigning on this and Mr. Cross has been ignoring it. Now all the sudden prior to an election it seems like a good idea. I think Mr. Cross is starting to try and appease the voters. To little to to later for this voter.

townsends
185
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townsends 06/30/10 - 12:40 pm
0
0
I guess you can find

I guess you can find negativity in anything if you look hard enough!
I’m just sayin’

731
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Barry Paschal 06/30/10 - 01:06 pm
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townsends has it correct. For

townsends has it correct. For chillen and everyone critical of the timing here: ALL local governments are in the middle of their budget approval processes in preparation for receiving finalized tax digests (which are set after the completion of the assessment appeals process). In Columbia County, all four local governments - county, school board, Grovetown and Harlem - are scheduled to set their tax rates July 19, so any changes, up or down, have to be voted on before then.

hollyjensen
0
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hollyjensen 06/30/10 - 01:12 pm
0
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This article is extremely

This article is extremely misleading. For those just reading headline feeders it would seem that the lower taxes is a done deal. Either the reporter is horrible at his/her job or just lazy. Which one is it?

IsAmericaFree
47
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IsAmericaFree 06/30/10 - 01:33 pm
0
0
Barry is correct. Many

Barry is correct. Many governments and business do not work on a calendar year for their finances. My employer is beginning our year end close now.
I regards to the $7.50 savings, I would rather have continued to pay the higher millage rate and have the additional funds be given to the schools to buy textbooks and supplies and higher more qualified teachers. Heck even give it to public safety!

Donnie Fetter
3
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Donnie Fetter 06/30/10 - 01:32 pm
0
0
Neither. Reporters don't

Neither. Reporters don't write headlines. In the first two paragraphs of the story it states that the tax cut is tentative and won't be decided until July 6.

msgret92
121
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msgret92 06/30/10 - 01:36 pm
0
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This is just another

This is just another Political move, after Cross had said that McGuire's numbers were lies, he used McGuire's numbers in the water bill and tried to justify them. So I assume Cross has now admitted that McGuire's numbers are correct. It sure seems funny also that Cross is now saying Firefighters are County employees after he didn't count them in numbers he has previously released in his water bill insert or in numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. Cross's definition of Successful (8 successful years) reminds me of Bill Clinton's definition of Sex.

ssimpso2
0
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ssimpso2 06/30/10 - 01:45 pm
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Let's not forget that the

Let's not forget that the county voted themselves a 2% raise that took effect in January of 2010. So now they get another 2% on top of the 2% they already granted themselves earlier? While the private sector is losing jobs and having their hours cut, our "public servants" are still raking in the dough. They are worse than the clowns in Washington, and even retired veterans' annuities did not include a cost of living raise this year. McGuire is getting my vote, and I have always had a problem with Ron's slick sheet...while the county is at it, please replace the upside-down-trenches you call speed bumps with the nice, smooth ones you put in the other neighborhoods. Just because my house is paid for and my neighbors didn't go into foreclosure by living beyond their means doesn't mean we don't deserve the same luxury...

Georgiais1
0
Points
Georgiais1 06/30/10 - 01:52 pm
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0
Time to move Mr. cross

Time to move Mr. cross out.....Rember no incumbents

msgret92
121
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msgret92 06/30/10 - 02:04 pm
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Isamericafee, the millage set

Isamericafee, the millage set by the commission can not go to schools a separate millage rate is set by the school board to cover school requirements. Maybe they could have left it in place to pay down some of the 110 million dollars that Cross has put the county in debt.

dichotomy
34495
Points
dichotomy 06/30/10 - 02:34 pm
0
0
Hmmm, CC with plenty of sales

Hmmm, CC with plenty of sales tax revenue and lowering property tax rates. Richmond county broke, artificially raising property values on certain targeted populations in south RC, just like their discriminatory higher garbage collection fees, trying to squeeze every nickel out of a certain residents without actually having to commit political suicide by raising the county wide millage rate and inconveniencing their special "incorporated" downtown people. Wonder what the difference is between the two counties? I'm not sure, well actually I am but it's not politically correct to say it. But I suspect that somewhere in there are some truths and lessons to be learned. I also suspect you will find a the reason people are fleeing from RC across the county line and across the river to NA. I stayed in RC after consolidation and hoped for the best, knowing it would not come. But it sure looks like white flight was the way to go. If you are a property owner in south RC you are nothing but an organ donor for them to keep a rotting corpse on life support even thought they know it is already dead. All of you "rich" property owners in south RC, I sure hope you are enjoying that 7000 acres of "Residential" property out there so get out your checkbooks and send some more tax money to Laney Walker and Reynolds St. That's why they are supporting the new development "plan" to "limit density" south of Spirit Creek. They are afraid if we get some development out here we would get enough people to redraw the districts and get a little representation. If they keep us "limited density" we are sitting ducks for their increasing "Residential" taxes on our pine trees and weeds properties and nobody to defend us. And believe me, with Jimmy Smith we have certainly have NOBODY to defend us.

csrareader
1287
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csrareader 06/30/10 - 02:36 pm
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ssimpso2, the County's idea

ssimpso2, the County's idea of speed humps is to dump some asphalt in the road and use shovels to "eyeball" it as they try to round it out. Impossible. Ron Cross has been asked repeatedly to work on this issue, which is extremely important to the homeowners, and he ignores the problem -- probably because he doesn't have them in his neighborhood. Every Columbia County resident, when they hit a speed hump, should think of Ron Cross, and vote accordingly.

Chillen
17
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Chillen 06/30/10 - 02:58 pm
0
0
Barry and the good old boys

Barry and the good old boys just have their panties in a wad because they support fellow good old boy Cross who as you can tell is in serious trouble this election.

McGuire gets my vote. I might even run over to his office this week & donate some money for more signs.

In addition to the reduced tax elction time trickery keep this in mind people, Cross & the current commisioners are giving PAY RAISES to government employees in the middle of a massive recession that is showing no signs of stopping.

All of you, get to work now so you can earn money to pay your government employees more money. If it wasn't so unbelievable I'd laugh but all I can do is cry.

dominionfs
0
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dominionfs 06/30/10 - 03:13 pm
0
0
A quarter mill equates to a

A quarter mill equates to a $7.50 tax cut on a home worth $100,000.
All well and good unless that $100,000 home has recently been assessed at $112,000.
Increase the assessed value of a property, decrease the millage rate, generate more income for the city to cover the pay raise and still get to claim you cut taxes. Gummint accounting at it's finest.
Sorry folks, I'm just a natural cynic when it comes to governments.

Batman
18
Points
Batman 06/30/10 - 03:43 pm
0
0
I think Georgia is right...

I think Georgia is right... it's time to 'throw the baby out with the bathwater'. Doing so will help change the nonsense that permeates all governments. Mr. Cross may argue he's held the 'mil-rate' down but much higher water bills and increased property taxes through reevaluation has caused much more of our family's money to go to Columbia County in the last few years. So, however you slice it, Columbia County has raised it's revenue (taxes) considerably. Another thing, and I have to agree with my husband here, Mr. Cross has overexposed himself. I cringe when opening my water bill because the price of water and sewer is outrageous and then to add insult to injury I have to look at Mr. Cross every month. Grant it, he's not a bad looking man, but enough already! It kinda reminds me of Phil Collins' on the radio 20 years ago. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. It's time to dethrone the kings!

burninater
9685
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burninater 06/30/10 - 05:26 pm
0
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Wait wait wait -- lowering

Wait wait wait -- lowering revenue, but increasing spending. Isn't this a primary issue at the core of the whole revolt against incumbency?

Jason Hasty
145
Points
Jason Hasty 06/30/10 - 05:51 pm
0
0
Whatever it is, apparently we

Whatever it is, apparently we have $110 million in bond debt in this county. And in 2009 the commissioners collected roughly $37 million, compared to a little less that $15 million in 2002. So despite an ever-increasing collection of taxes, we have managed to get into this kind of debt? Now, I'm going to save roughly $15.00 per year? I'm just asking. And voting for Brett McGuire.

countyman
20628
Points
countyman 06/30/10 - 07:22 pm
0
0
Dichotomy. I think you need

Dichotomy. I think you need to get your facts straight.... RC isn't broke by a long shot. The state cut more than $20 million in funding. Yet RC still didn't raise taxes or layoff teachers in the 2011 budget. And nobody is fleeing RC for any place. Both the school board and the goverment have money in the reserves.. RC set a hotel revenue record in 2008 and 2009.

countyman
20628
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countyman 06/30/10 - 06:46 pm
0
0
Hmmm??? According to the

Hmmm??? According to the article from June 2010 below. Richmond County saw increased revenue for the past two months when compared to a year ago.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/2010-06-05/augusta-area-hop...

speeding
0
Points
speeding 06/30/10 - 07:51 pm
0
0
So welcoming.

So welcoming.

ssimpso2
0
Points
ssimpso2 06/30/10 - 08:02 pm
0
0
Appreciate that,

Appreciate that, csrareader...there was also an article that appeared in the local paper that showed a compare/contrast study of our county officials' salaries; clearly showing that they are among the highest paid in comparison to other counties in this state. I say bring them in line with the rest of their peers; even on the upper end of the "average" scale would be more acceptable than the numbers that were published a few months ago...they are clearly among the "elite".

Dee Anderson
0
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Dee Anderson 06/30/10 - 09:42 pm
0
0
While it is a good thing to

While it is a good thing to lower the mill rate, 1/4 percent is just not enough in these economic times. Why don't the Columbia County commissioners lower the tax assessed value of Columbia County properties to equal the decrease in the fair market value of Columbia County properties. According to national association of realtors the fair market value of properties in Columbia County decreased from 2008 to 2009 by 4.6 percent. So commissioners please save us some real tax dollars by lowering Columbia County tax assessment by 4.6 percent.

jb1234
0
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jb1234 06/30/10 - 10:20 pm
0
0
You people will complain

You people will complain about anything. Just be glad they haven't voted to RAISE your taxes. Be glad that the county is doing so well (in a recession mind you) that they are able to reduce taxes and increase salaries. Sheesh, try looking at things from a positive viewpoint every once in a while instead of being so gloom and doom all the time.

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