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County budget to shrink for fiscal year 2010
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Millage rates
A look at how millage rates for the county’s portion of the property tax bill have declined.
County millage rates
Since 2005
Year    Millage rate
2005    10.127
2006    9.943
2007    9.756
2008    8.913
2009    8.854
2010    8.687
(millage rate is that levied solely by the county and does not include any city, school board, IDA or hospital authority mills)

Effingham County commissioners are on track to approve a budget that County Administrator David Crawley said was “better than balanced.”

The proposed spending plan for the county calls for revenues and expenditures of $30.46 million for the coming fiscal year. The fiscal year 2009 budget was set at $30.67 million. The decrease of $216,109 makes the FY10 budget .7 percent smaller than last year’s plan.

“We have consistently spent less than what we have budgeted,” Crawley said.

The county also is planning on trimming its millage rate back from 8.854 to 8.687.

“Because of the enactment of recent laws, the millage rate is in limbo,” Crawley said. “We may not pass a millage rate until July.”

The loss of the homeowners tax relief grant funding means an approximate increase of $228 for each homestead property. The expected cut in the millage rate would mean a drop in $6.68 in the property tax bill for a home valued at $100,000.

The pending budget has an increase of $644,981 for personnel costs as the county tries to make up a gap between the compensation for its employees and the scale for employees at counties with a similar population. The 2000 Census put the county’s population at 38,000, but current Census Bureau estimates now have the county’s populace totaling more than 52,000.

The county expects to cut $628,570 from its purchased services and another $136,258 from its capital expenditures. There are smaller cuts in supplies and operations and in other expenditures to get to a decrease of $216,110 from the current budget.

“We’ve been fairly restrictive on travel with everybody,” Crawley said.

County staff has pegged the budget at a 95 percent collection rate of property taxes, and Chairman Dusty Zeigler said he was worried about people being able to pay property taxes in the current economic conditions.

“That really does concern me,” he said.

Chief Tax Assessor Janis Bevill said her office will incur a cost as the result of a new law that spells out how property owners are notified when their land will be valued. Postcards will be mailed to let property owners know when assessors will be in their area reviewing property. Property is assessed every three years, and there are more than 27,000 parcels in the county.

A final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 16.