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Hall residents could split tax payments

1975 act directs county to collect twice a year

POSTED: July 11, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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An old law could be brought back to life if the Hall County Board of Commissioners decides to authorize collecting taxes twice a year.

If the commission approves it, Hall County residents will have the option to pay taxes in two increments or continue to pay once at the end of the year.

Three seemingly conflicting pieces of legislation dating back to the 1970s have left county officials puzzled over what is actually the law.

In 1974, residents voted on a constitutional amendment that would authorize Hall County to divide taxes into two annual payments. In the same year, the Georgia legislature passed a statewide act that granted counties the ability to collect taxes either once or twice a year. In 1975, the same legislature passed a local act directing Hall County to collect taxes twice a year, County Attorney Bill Blalock said.

"The acts themselves don’t explain each other," Blalock said. "We’re trying to interpret how they intertwine."

At the June 26 board meeting, longtime Hall County resident Louie Butterworth brought a copy of the law stating taxes are to be collected twice yearly before the commission, spurring county officials to dig into the old legislation.

Commissioners discussed the possibility of an additional collection at Monday’s work session with Tax Commissioner Keith Echols, who said it would incur printing and postage costs of up to $50,000 for the county. But if enough people participate, he said, having tax money in the bank longer would earn interest and offset costs.

"I’ve got a lot of feedback from people that would like to pay it twice a year," Commissioner Steve Gailey said. But Commissioner Bobby Banks questioned whether the number of people interested in paying taxes twice a year was significant enough to make the switch.

Gailey proposed adding a nonbinding referendum question on the ballot during November elections to determine the interest in collecting taxes biannually.

"It lets us know what the people in the county want," Gailey said.

Hall County is one of a few counties in the state that has the option of using nonbinding referendum questions, which serve to gauge the opinion of voters, on ballots.

Echols also suggested pushing the collection date back to November. Currently, taxes are collected on Dec. 1, while many other counties collect taxes Nov. 15.

"Over my seven and a half years I’ve had quite a few people ask why the due date’s Dec. 1. People got Christmas on their mind. They’d like to have it a little bit earlier so they can plan for it, knowing that if they pay it early then they won’t spend it if they got it set aside for their taxes," Echols said.



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