LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County Commissioners met briefly -- not much more than 60 seconds -- Thursday to adopt a tax millage rate for 2012 that will mark the seventh consecutive year without a property tax increase.
Commissioners voted unanimously to set its property tax rate at 12.766 mills. The rate was dropped to that level from 15.648 mills because of the local option sales tax collected in Lee County.
The action came just a few hours after members of the Lee County Board of Education voted unanimously to keep the school district's millage rate at 15.4 mills.
County Commission Chairman Ed Duffy was pleased that the county was able to maintain its tax status quo, partially crediting an improved economy.
"I consider Lee County an oasis in the middle of a desert with surrounding counties having financial difficulties, raising their millage rate and furloughing employees," Duffy said.
The overall tax digest in Lee County increased by $230,000 this year. In 2011, the digest increased just $1,036 while the 2010 digest was down more than $82,000.
"Not only have we balanced this budget without a tax increase during hard economic times, we have been able to build back our reserves from $1.9 million to $7.6 million," Duffy said.
Duffy also said the county also has been able to construct several new facilities during the period including a library/conference center, fire/EMS station and animal shelter.
Duffy commended District 5 Commissioner Bill Williams for his work as chairman of the budget committee for the past four years. Williams is leaving the commission at the end of the year.
Duffy also commended county employees "for cooperating by living within our means."
The school portion of the tax rate remains unchanged from the past four years with 15 mills going to operations and maintenance and .4 mills devoted to debt maintenance.
The total Lee tax millage rate is 28.366 mills, which includes 12.766 for the county government, 15.4 for the public schools and a two-tenths of a mill assessment the state levies.
Lee BOE chair Sylvia Vann said maintaining the 15.4 rate will put a strain on the system, adding that the past 11 years of state austerity cuts has cost the District an estimated $23 million in funding.
"I'd like to say how proud I am for our school system employees and administration," board member Louis Hatcher said. "But we've managed to maintain despite deep austerity cuts."
Hatcher then tore into state legislators.
"Our legislators have gone off a tangent to promote charter schools, yet they refuse to fully fund our existing public schools." Hatcher said. "They have failed to get their priorities straight to properly fund education in the state of Georgia. They have also failed to properly fund the mandates they have placed upon us."
In other action, the School Board voted to approve adding a new AP (Advanced Placement) music course for Lee County High for the next school year.
The Board also approved to put out advertisements for request for bids on a construction management at-risk contract for facilities construction.