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County looking at tax hike
Commissioners ponder raising millage rate
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The Bryan County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to advertise a proposed millage rate of 8.5 for fiscal year 2010.

The proposed rate is one mill higher than the current millage rate of 7.5.

Commissioners must hold three public hearings before voting on a proposed millage increase.

The commission can approve a millage rate change after the third public hearing is closed.

The BOC reluctantly discussed their reasons for proposing a property tax hike at the end of a lengthy meeting. Raising the county’s millage rate would help the county cover an estimated $400,000 shortfall in its proposed $16.7 million budget, they said.

"It’s a tight budget, no doubt about that," said Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed.

"There are no raises for employees, no new vehicles," commented Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones.

"I guess it’s a sign of the times," Burnsed continued. "In Vermont, they furlough their state employees one Friday a month. And this may be something we need to look at."

The commission also said taxpayers have previously received breaks in the form of homestead exemptions, but those exemptions – while welcomed by Bryan County property owners – have to a degree caused the county’s revenue stream to dwindle over time.

Bryan County Tax Assessor Dan Rollf told the commission that the county will lose a projected $1,341,078 in revenue this year, 2009, from homestead exemptions.

"None of us appreciate more taxes," said Bryan County Commissioner Rick Gardner. "It boils down to which services you want cut."

Commissioners agreed that the county’s contingency fund is too low to handle any emergencies, such as hurricanes that could hit coastal Georgia. Commissioners also want to acquire funds to pave and improve county roads.

Jones said there is about $125,000 in contingency funds in the proposed 2010 budget.

"That’s not much contingency," Jones said in an interview Monday. "I would like to see $250,000 in contingency."

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