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Hall commissioner reaches agreement with creditors
Lutz and wife filed for bankruptcy in January
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South Hall Commissioner Craig Lutz seems to have come to terms with his creditors in court, agreeing to pay 13 percent of the outstanding debt included in his Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing.

For the next five years, the commissioner and his wife will pay $498 each month to a court trustee to satisfy their creditors.

The couple is also surrendering a time share property in Tennessee.

Lutz and his wife, Shanon, filed for bankruptcy in January only weeks after Lutz was sworn into his post on the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

Court documents show the couple had compiled more than $80,000 in credit card debt and owed hundreds of thousands of dollars on various loans.

Lutz said a previous job at AT&T had allowed him to afford a good lifestyle. An earnings statement included in court documents showed Lutz earned about $4,995 a month on the job.

"When I was working at my previous employer, I was able to carry a lot of credit card debt, because I made a lot of money," Lutz said.

But two months prior to his bankruptcy filing — and shortly after he was elected to the commission — Lutz lost his job at AT&T, reducing his family income to his wife's income from a teaching job in Gwinnett County. Earnings statements provided to the court by Shanon Lutz show an average monthly income of about $4,950.

In January, Craig Lutz began earning a $2,113 monthly stipend from the county, but court documents show the couple's monthly payments exceeded their income by more than $1,000 at the time they filed for Chapter 13 protection.

The Lutzes had previously borrowed twice against a 401(k), taken out a second mortgage and secured two other loans — one to finish the basement on their house and another for the time share in Tennessee.

By the time they filed for bankruptcy, the Lutzes owed $524,878.93 to seven different lenders, according to court documents.

The loan debt was in addition to $81,161.27 in credit card debt and another $9,459.49 of unpaid student loans.

Craig and Shanon Lutz reorganized a little more than one quarter of the debt through the Chapter 13 plan, the payments of which were decided based on the couple's current income.

The plan protects Lutz from losing his Chevrolet Silverado as long as he pays Georgia's Own Credit Union $50 per month on the loan that allowed him to purchase it. In April, the truck payment will increase to $240 under the plan.

Neither the Lutzes' student loans nor the couple's mortgage is included in the debt reorganization plan, Lutz said.

Lutz said he and his wife will continue making payments on their original mortgage, and his family will continue to live in their house in the Sterling on the Lake neighborhood in Flowery Branch.

Their second mortgage is part of the debt included in the Chapter 13 plan, however.

If the monthly payments are not changed in court, at the end of the five-year period, the Lutzes will have repaid $29,880 of the at least $231,940 of debt included in the Chapter 13 reorganization plan.

The commissioner, echoing the words of Commissioner Scott Gibbs whose Lula home is in foreclosure, said the experience has helped him to better relate with Hall County taxpayers, and has taught him that "bad things happen to good people."

"It certainly helps me with an understanding of what the public is going through," Lutz said. "The things that have happened have been a result of something personal —- we invested in time shares that we probably shouldn't have — some were political and some were frankly economical."

Lutz said the bankruptcy had little to do with a recent trip to Disneyworld in Orlando, citing his wife's continued employment and the fact that the family still owns a time share in Orlando. The rest of the trip was paid for through savings, because the Lutzes no longer use credit cards, Lutz said.

"We had to be a lot more economical about (the vacation), and budget a lot tighter," Lutz said. "I don't see what a trip to Disney has to do with my conservatism." 

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