Tax hike

Commissioners officially approved a .65 mill increase in taxes at a called meeting Thursday night, but the vote was not unanimous.

First district commissioner Harold Rozier Jr. did not answer “aye” but did not oppose the motion to approve the millage rate either.

Throughout his tenure on the board, Rozier has advocated for financial restraint and has routinely voted against budgets and millage rates.

The vote came after the third and final public hearing on the millage rate and budget.

Two residents, Angela Strickland and Genevieve Pope, were the only citizens present at Thursday’s hearing. Over the course of the three public hearings on the millage rate increase, only four residents attended.

While both Pope and Strickland said that no one likes to pay taxes, they did not necessarily complain about the increase.

“If it is used for road improvements, we are all for that,” said Strickland.

County chairman Neal Bennett, third district representative Randy Dixon and county manager Jason Rubenbauer all affirmed the bulk of the $423,641 generated by the millage increase will go to road improvements.

“We spent over $100,000 in pipe replacement as a result of the flooding rains last December,” said Bennett. “Those rains showed us where our problems were.”

Dixon pointed out specifically the culvert failure on Laura Chapel Road near where Strickland and Pope live.

“Most of our infrastructure with our drain pipes is over 50 years old and it is failing,” he said. “Those pipes have rusted through and have collapsed and that’s causing lots of problems county-wide.”

Rubenbauer said the pipe replacements would be done in phases and would be spread over several years. He also pointed out funds generated by the tax increase would also be used to help with fire department and public safety improvements.

The budget also includes money for software upgrades, facility and park improvements at the recreation department and improvements at the SEGARAC building and courthouse.

Under the new millage rate, a homeowner with a $100,000 home and with assessment remaining the same as last year, can expect to pay an additional $46 in taxes this year.

In a related item, commissioners also approved setting the school board’s millage rate at 16.272, down slightly from last year.