By a 3-2 vote, the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners approved a 1 mill property tax increase at its meeting Thursday night.
The tax hike will boost the county's revenue by about $2.5 million. But it still will leave the county with a deficit of that amount, County Commission Chairman Mike Babb said.
"We'll be able cover it using our reserve funds," Babb said Friday.
The commissioners initially proposed a 2 mill increase, but opted for the smaller amount after residents complained that was too high.
"We did listen to the people," Babb said.
Babb and Commissioners Gordon Morehouse and Harold Brooker voted for the tax increase. Opposing it were Commissioners Robby Staten and Greg Jones.
"Times are tough, and people are stretched," Jones said Friday, explaining his vote. "School board just went up 4 mills, so I thought we could make it another year."
The schools also will get 1 cent per dollar of sales tax because of the restoration of an education special purpose local option sales tax.
Babb said the county has cut employees and spending in the past and has one of the lowest millage rates in the state.
Tax opponents asked the county to make further cuts, but county employees opposed to cuts showed up at Thursday's meeting.
"A lot of people in the audience were public employees," Babb said.
Despite being on different sides of the tax increase, both Babb and Jones indicated the county may have to revisit the tax issue next year.
"We'll probably have more to address," Babb said.
Jones said, "Something will have to happen unless the economy really turns up."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.