BOC considers millage increase for road improvements, safety needs

County commissioners are considering raising the millage rate three-quarters of a mill to address road maintenance and public safety needs.

Commissioners have tentatively agreed to raise the millage rate from the current level of 15.35 mills to 16 mills.

A final decision on the millage rate was expected to be made at the commisson’s regular meeting Tuesday night (after The Times’ deadline).

County Manager Jason Rubenbauer first asked for the increase during the commission’s monthly work session last Tuesday. Commissioners were very uneasy about raising the millage and wanted time to mull over the decision. A second, called meeting was held Thursday morning to discuss the situation.

Several options on the millage were under consideration, but all included raising the millage. Options included raising the rate to 15.75 mills, 16 mills or 16.5 mills.

If the millage rate is raised to 16.5 mills, 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.

Rubenbauer presented a budget of $9.35 million, about $110,000 higher than last year’s budget.

The manager asked commissioners to increase the millage to address road maintenance and public safety issues he says have been neglected for far too long.

Rubenbauer cited numerous infrastructure problems on county roads as one of the main needs.

“We can’t keep patching,” he said. “We can’t keep putting band-aid fixes on these problems. The longer we let them go, the more expensive they will be in the long run.”

Rubenbauer cited two specific instances of culvert replacements costing over $500,000. The repairs had to be done following last fall’s heavy rains. The county will receive state and federal help to offset those costs, but the manager said many other roads in the county need work.

The manager said the county’s fire departments needed more money for building stations and for buying new equipment.

He also told commissioners the self contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) for all county fire departments are outdated and unsafe for local firefighters. He estimated replacement costs at over $100,000.

Rubenbauer also told commissioners he wants to reduce the amount the county has to borrow from reserves to operate each year. Currently, the county uses about $250,000 from contingency each year.

The manager also said that raises for all county employees had increased expenses over last year.

Public hearings on the millage rate are tentatively set for 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, and 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22. A called meeting to set the millage will be held at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22. All hearings and the called meeting will be held at the Southeast Georgia Regional Agriculture Building on College Avenue.

An advertisement on the millage rate is included in today’s edition.