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Columbia County tax rate down in 2020 budget

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt an $80 million budget for 2020 with the local tax rate dipping to its lowest point since 2011.

The 2020 budget has a 1 percent increase in the county property tax levy, for a total of $27.61 million. This is a $323,030 increase from 2019. The mill rate was set at $4.785 per $1000 of equalized value. It is the lowest rate since 2011, when the rate was $4.745 per $1,000. The 2019 rate was $4.984 for a total budget of $78 million.

The county’s equalized value, the estimated value of all taxable property within the county, increased by 5.4 percent to $5.77 billion.

The county’s operational costs have exceeded state-imposed levy limits so the county will use about $1.6 million from general reserve funds to balance the budget.

Supervisor Adam R. Field of Portage voted in favor for the 2020 budget, saying he felt the levy increase was not excessive.

“I thought the tax levy was more reasonable, I’ve voted for some and I’ve voted against some, said Field. “I think this one is within a reasonable amount for the new growth the county has experienced.”

With the adoption of the budget, the county will add four new positions within county staff, a highway equipment operator, a highway patrolman, a children and family supervisor in Health and Human Services, as well as a detective sergeant in the sheriff’s office.

In addition, all county employees, with the exception of the sheriff’s sworn union staff, will see a 1.5 percent wage increase across the board, which will cost $255,000.

County Board Chair Vern Gove of Portage said he is happy with how the budget process went while preparing the 2020 budget, and commends the accounting department and county supervisors for their work throughout the process.

“After years of doing this, I think we all pretty much have it down to a science,” said Gove. “That’s a compliment to accounting because they got it all together, for the supervisors to see before it’s time to approve it.”

SUSAN ENDRES/Daily Register 

Aidan Black sings the national anthem during a Veterans Day Celebration Tuesday morning at Lewiston Elementary School in Portage.