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Gainesville property tax bills (almost) are in the mail

POSTED: October 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED /The Times

Dee Dee Stephens looks through a stack of billing information as she prepares to send out tax bills to Gainesville property owners.

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Gainesville property owners can expect their tax bills to arrive in the next week.

Gainesville’s Chief Financial Officer Melody Marlowe said her office is balancing the last of city residents’ property tax bills, and they should be mailed to residents this week.

Tax payments are due 60 days from the day they are mailed, and the city accepts payments in cash, check or money order.

City residents with homestead exemptions will receive a bill with the tax credits afforded by the Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grant, although it is unclear whether the state is going to reimburse local governments for the credit, Marlowe said.

To help close a state budget shortfall, Gov. Sonny Perdue in August froze $428 million in Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grants that would have gone to local governments. State legislators have opposed Perdue’s decision, saying it is important to keep the grant intact to keep local governments from having to raise property taxes, but Gainesville officials still do not know whether the money — about $76.80 per property owner — will come back to Gainesville.

Still, residents with homestead exemptions will receive the credits, Marlowe said. If the money does not come back to the Gainesville government, Marlowe said the city will have to find a way to absorb the cost in the current year’s budget. Whether absorbing the cost will come in the form of trimming expenses or increasing taxes is for the City Council to decide, Marlowe said.

Property taxes, depending on what day the city mails them, should be due shortly before Christmas, Marlowe said. The city charges 1 percent interest each month on balances that are not paid by Dec. 23, Marlowe said.

The city charges a 10 percent penalty fee on those bills that are not paid in full 90 days after the due date.

As Hall County officials are preparing for a lower than normal tax collection rate, Marlowe said the city prepared its budget only expecting to collect 95 percent of property taxes "just to be conservative."

"We’re going to watch it very closely," Marlowe said. "Just with the amount of foreclosures, it’s possible that we will have some taxpayers that can’t make those due dates, and we will watch it carefully."



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