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Hall likely to cancel twice-yearly property tax payments
Change was instituted this year after voters approved having two bills
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Following public backlash from taxpayers, Hall County is preparing to cancel its two-installment property tax billing system after just one year.

Hall County commissioners unanimously signaled Monday at a work session that they wish to cancel required twice-yearly payments.

In this first and final year of the plan, Hall County taxpayers were required to pay half of their property taxes by Oct. 1 and the rest by Dec. 1 to avoid penalties.

However, county officials reported confusion and anger about the new process.

"I haven't heard one person who is happy about the way we set it up," Commissioner Billy Powell said.

Pending final approval of a resolution to cancel the installment program on Thursday, all Hall County property taxes will be due Dec. 1 next year.

Last year, Hall commissioners voted to break up tax payments into two mandatory installments after a voter referendum showed support for the idea. After implementation this year, that support crumbled.

Keith Echols, Hall County tax commissioner, said his office was flooded by complaints from taxpayers who said they either were not pleased about paying taxes early or didn't realize half of their taxes were due by Oct. 1 and were upset about the penalties.

In an online poll posted to the county's website, www.hallcounty.org, 68 percent of respondents said they did not like the installment system.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs asked if Hall could implement a voluntary installment period in which taxes were due by Oct. 1, but without a penalty if taxpayers don't pay.

As Commissioner Craig Lutz put it, "Can we go back to one installment but act like it's two?"

That's similar to Gainesville's property tax system.

The county benefits from getting taxes in early, Echols said, because it prevents the government from having to borrow money.

However, Bill Blalock, Hall County attorney, said state statute prevents the county from issuing "optional" installments - a rule that Gainesville gets around because of language in its charter.

"If people want to make monthly installment payments, they can," Blalock said. "They can pay anytime up to Dec. 1 and there is no penalty."

However, the county cannot set voluntary installment dates for taxpayers, he said. Instead, commissioners had to decide whether to keep its current process of two mandatory installment dates or revert back to one date in which all taxes are due.

Commissioners are set to approve the change at Thursday's meeting. 

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