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$4 million in property taxes still unpaid
Hall office turns delinquent taxpayers over to collection agency
Anthony Stowers writes a check for taxes on his farm to tax clerk Surama Jo at the Hall County Tax Commissioner’s Office Tuesday afternoon. Stowers’ friend, Beth Shelnutt, waits with him. Hall County Tax Commissioner Keith Echols is turning delinquent taxpayers over to a collections agency Tuesday.

Hall County property taxes were due in December, but 2,753 bills still have yet to be paid.

Tax Commissioner Keith Echols said the bills, worth approximately $4.1 million, were turned over Tuesday to Government Tax Solutions, a collection agency.

The collection agency goes after the remainder of the long-overdue taxes Echols has not received.

"I send out three (notices). I sent my last one out in March and gave them until April 1 to come in and make arrangements or pay, or if not it would be turned over to collections," Echols said.

Property taxes were due Dec. 1. Echols added a 1 percent interest rate every month and a 10 percent interest was added after 90 days.

If the collection agency still is unable to get the money, the property will be sold.

"Proceedings would be taken by (the agency) if they don’t collect it within six weeks. They notify all the landholders, and if it’s not paid by June 1 it’ll be advertised in the paper for tax sales," Echols said.

Tax sales take place the first Tuesday of every month.

This year, the number of home foreclosures is higher than in the past, which could make collecting the taxes more difficult.

"A lot of these mortgage companies are foreclosing and don’t pay the taxes until the last minute or don’t pay at all until they sell it," Echols said. "That’s one of our problems. That’s one of the reasons our delinquent taxes are so high."

Echols said the amount of taxes still owed this year is about the same as it was last year.

"It’s somewhere around $4 million every year about this time," Echols said. "Either their property’s been foreclosed on or they just won’t pay their taxes till they get a statement from the collection service."

Though the amount is the same, Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton said tax collection is especially important this year.

"It’s certainly a concern," Sutton said. "The budget’s already extremely tight and sales tax is so low that every bit of tax that’s uncollected becomes more and more of an issue."

It’s not just homeowners who are feeling the pinch this year.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners will vote Thursday to allow Pilgrims Pride, which recently filed for bankruptcy, to pay 65 percent of its taxes in April and the remainder after completing bankruptcy proceedings.

That company owes the county about $88,000 in taxes.

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