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Commissioners bump up millage rate
Officials say 0.589 mill increase was minimal but necessary to keep services flowing
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The Bryan County Board of Commissioners approved a millage rate of 7.5 for Bryan County, up from 6.911 last year, at a public hearing in Pembroke on Wednesday.

The increase of 0.589 mills, along with planned budget cuts, will generate about $500,000 to help balance the county’s budget.

Said Jimmy Burnsed, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, "We didn’t want to increase it at all, but after looking at the numbers and the departments where we could cut back, we feel that this is something we have to do to keep the county fiscally sound. We feel that this is the minimum increase necessary to keep essential services flowing to citizens."

He added that virtually every county department asked for more money to fund their services, but that they will "have to make due with what they had last year."

Part of the revenue from the tax increases will go to fund the new sewer and water authority that was created last year, as well as health insurance and salaries for county employees.

"More than half of our budget is salaries," Burnsed said.

Although the county has not authorized any new positions, some county employees’ salaries have been increased to cover the rising cost of living.

One major factor contributing to Bryan County’s budgetary concerns is the homestead tax exemption. The exemption is set at $30,000 for homeowners under the age of 65 and $50,000 for those 65 and older. While it may save homeowners cash, it also results in less money flowing into the county.

"Last year, the homestead exemption cost the county more than $1.5 million," Burnsed said, adding that the millage increase represents an effort to offset those costs.

So how much will all this cost homeowners?

According to Chief Tax Assessor Dan Rollf, if a resident’s home is worth $150,000 and has no exemptions, he or she will pay about $35 more over the course of the year, compared with the previous millage rates.

Burnsed said, "If citizens look at taxes in Bryan County compared with those around us, I think they’ll see that our taxes are still fairly low."

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