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Board approves tax digest without millage increase
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Meetings continue this week to determine the county's spending plan for 2013 following the county commission's vote on July 5 to adopt the tax digest without raising the millage rate.

This is the eighth year the board hasn't raised the county's portion of the millage rate, which remains at 8.138 mills.

"We do a good job of reducing government and spending money wisely so that we have a zero-based budget," said Commission Chair Mike Berg.

The millage rate is part of a formula used to calculate property taxes, where one mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

The declining tax digest meant about $1.4 million less in funding for the 2012 budget, which followed a nearly $1.2 million drop in 2011.

Despite the drop, the board anticipates adding money to its reserve in 2013, but remains cautious for the future.

"For about three or four years in a row, we're spending less each year and those numbers are getting significantly less each year in any amount you want to look at it," said Commissioner Gary Pichon.

"If this thing doesn't turn, the citizens need to know that we have pulled every rabbit out of every hat, and there are no extraneous people left in our organization. If we keep going down this slope, sooner or later, you are going to see reductions of services. That's just where we're headed."

Commissioner James Swafford praised the diligence of the county staff for their efforts to reduce spending.

"Because of the great work of all our county employees and the conscious effort that put forward in saving the county money, we will be adding money to the fund balance," Swafford said. "I don't like to add money to fund balance and county employees not get raises, but when you look at the '13 budget, we're $1.4 million less in revenue than we'll have this year, so be advised that it's going to take a lot more than probably we had in fund balance just to pay next year."

Berg is in the process of meeting with department heads and constitutional officers to discuss the county's budget for 2013. He is tentatively set to present his recommended budget to the full commission Aug. 9.

The school board approved its 2013 budget on June 11, also without raising its portion of the millage rate. Instead, the board cut more than 30 positions totaling nearly $2 million to make up for revenue cuts at the state level and rising health care insurance premium costs.