Columbia County commissioners approved an almost $41 million budget for the coming fiscal year Tuesday.
The approved budget for fiscal year 2004-05 is a 3.39 percent increase over last year.
The vote solidified commissioners' intentions to raise the mill rate to pay for fire service in the county.
Commissioners voted last year to replace subscription fees with a property tax increase to fund fire service, but the mill increase has not been set, Columbia County Financial Services Division Director Leanne Deloach said.
Mrs. Deloach said the increase could be 1.62 or 1.68 mills, depending on the county's tax digest, which arrives next month.
By state law, the county will have to hold three public meetings in July to inform the public of the increase.
Residents inside the Grovetown and Harlem city limits will not be affected by the increase, in compliance with an agreement reached between the cities and the counties earlier this year.
Also at Tuesday's commission meeting, developers of a proposed lifestyle center in Evans made a preliminary presentation to the commission.
The developers, headed by Joe Marshall, plan to develop about 57 acres between North Belair Road and Industrial Parkway into a combined retail, residential and office complex.
The group plans to break ground on the first phase of the project later this year, Dr. Marshall said.
He promised upscale shopping outlets and eateries, an apartment complex and office spaces that will be constructed over several years in phases.
A complete unveiling of the project will be Thursday at 10 a.m. at 691 N. Belair Road.
Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 109, or firstname.lastname@example.org.