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Columbia County Commissioners approve budget

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The Columbia County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted during its meeting Tuesday evening to adopt the annual budget for all county funds for fiscal year 2022/2023.

“What you have is an increase of about a little over 7.2% from FY 21-22 Adopted Budget,” said county manager Scott Johnson to the board, explaining also that he and his staff balanced the budget using a 14% property tax revenue increase and a proposed rolled back millage rate. “We are able to accomplish everything we need to do and still roll back taxes.”

According to the new proposed budget, Columbia County’s adjusted revenue for the year is more than $88 million, with adjusted expenditures at over $86 million, leaving a surplus of over $2.2 million.

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The commissioners also approved entering a joint funding agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey to investigate local water resources by operating and maintaining two streamgages—instruments installed in rivers or streams to measure and record the level of water flowing.

The streamgages are to be installed at Euchee Creek and Reed Creek. The five-year agreement waives the $24,500 installation fee for the streamgages and leaves the U.S. Geological Survey responsible for its maintenance, cleaning, monitoring, repair from potential vandalism and upgrades.

“This will really, really help the county,” said Shawn Granato, Emergency Management Agency director. “Really, this does mean a lot to especially to the water and to the stormwater departments as far as being able to understand what has actually happened to our streams during different times of the year. There are a lot of lists that we’re on right now that we hope to get off of and we want to make sure that we have the right information to do so when it comes to building and permitting and whatnot, especially with real data rather than just winging it.”

Granato noted before the board several benefits of acquiring the data the streamgages would provide, such as helping reduce flood insurance policies for the people the county, helping with the water conveyance and distribution.

“The biggest thing that I want to be able to do with it is just really be able to forecast and some of the areas that we’re really not comfortable with forecasting at this time,” Grantom said. “Looking at evacuation routes; if you have properties that might need a floodplain, this will prove that they don’t, or vice versa.”

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Deputy County Manager Glenn Kennedy and Engineering Services Director Kyle Titus both concurred that county would benefit from the new instruments as opposed to the models it’s currently using to make these assessments. Kennedy also noted that the data becomes valuable after about two years of collecting.

“The longer we wait to begin collecting that data, the more behind we are,” Kennedy said.

Commissioner Gary Richardson asked if the study and information accumulated from the streamgages might result in further issues or expenses. Johnson replied that the study would enable the county to address certain obligations.

“Ultimately we have certain responsibilities,” said Johnson. “I think this will allow us to use this data to say ‘okay, we do need to clean out a pond, we do need to do this.” I think it strengthens our argument that we are doing everything we can do using the best management practices.”

Skyler Q. Andrews is a staff reporter covering education in Columbia County and business-related topics for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected].

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