Columbus OKs budget

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

     With one dissenting vote Columbus County Commissioners Monday approved an $81.5 million budget for the year that begins July 1.

     Commissioner Buddy Byrd’s objects were more grounded in procedures than on the details of the proposal presented by County Manager Eddie Madden last month, complaining that there were no budget workshops where commissioners could hash out spending details, “line-by-line.”

     “We’ve always had budget workshops,” Byrd said. “The public had an opportunity to know what went up and what went down.”

     Taxes, for many property owners, will go up as the board approved Madden’s plan to leave intact the current tax rate of 80.5 cents for every $100 of taxable property.

     Because the county’s tax office conducted a revaluation of taxable property early this year, which showed property values have increased by an average of about 15 percent, a “revenue neutral” tax rate would have been 69.9 cents for each $100 in taxable property.

     Madden  told a capacity crowd in the board’s chambers that reducing the tax rate would be foolhardy because the county’s current fund balance of $7.8 million is not enough to meet guidance from the state’s Local Government Commission (LGC), and that most of that balance is restricted in its use.

     Funding for the planned new K-8 school in Tabor City could be threatened if the LGC determines the county is not sufficiently strong.

     Also threatened, if the tax rate was reduced, could be low wealth funds from the state to the county’s two public school systems, Columbus County Supt. Dr. Deanne Meadows said.

     Look for more on this story in this week’s Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.