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County set to adopt its FY2012 budget
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Plans for Effingham County’s Goshen Road fire station are almost complete, and the county is close to determining what its fire fees for the coming budget year will be.

The commissioners are expected to adopt the fiscal year 2011-12 budget tonight, along with sanitation fees and the millage rate. County commissioners likely will approve an 8.558 millage rate for county purposes, along with 1.977 mills for the hospital authority, the Industrial Development Authority’s 2 mills, the 15.333 as approved by the school board and .25 of a mill for the state. That’s a total of 28.118 for the unincorporated portions of the county.

The county millage rate commissioners are considering is almost 2.5 percent less than the rollback millage rate of 8.775. The county’s tax digest lost more than $83.4 million in value from real property last year, a decrease of nearly 5.1 percent.
House counts, upon which fire protection service was based before the new service delivery strategy agreements, are in, County Administrator David Crawley said.

The current county residential fire fee is $35, with the commercial fire fee at $100 and the industrial fire fee at $500. Those may have to go up, Crawley said.

The residential fee may have to go to $75 a year while the commercial rate could go to $200 and the industrial fee could reach $2,000.

“This year, it’s a little more complicated,” he said.

Commissioner Bob Brantley compared Effingham’s fire fees to those in surrounding jurisdictions and said the county’s are still lower, even with a projected increase. Bloomingdale’s is $12 per month, he said, or a total of $144 a year.

“It is still way below other areas,” he said.

Crawley said the current fees and the fees they are considering are lower than surrounding areas and lower than those Chatham County residents pay. County fire fees have not been increased for several years, and commissioners also worried that not doing so and then having a big spike in the fees would be a shock to customers.

The county is performing fire inspections and they are looking at a fee for businesses that gives credit for sprinkler systems and would be based more on square footage.

Local fire departments also have had their resources stretched with the number of wildfires in extreme southeastern Georgia.

“One big cost is fighting forest fires,” Crawley said. “We are involved in that.”

Crawley also said the county is negotiating a contract amendment with Republic, the county’s solid waste pickup service. Participation in the recycling pilot program is at 68 percent.