Columbia County Commissioners have agreed to enter a contract to collect property taxes for the cities of Harlem and Grovetown without paying additional compensation to the Tax Commissioner.
At a commission committee meeting Tuesday, county officials discussed the proposed contracts and agreed to set a fee of 2 percent of taxes collected for the cities, which will be paid to the general fund. This is the same commission the cities had been paying to former Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.
However, that money – more than $160,000 over the past five years – was paid directly to Allen as personal compensation. After a sheriff’s investigation into the matter became public knowledge last year, commissioners demanded the money be turned over to the county and that Allen should resign. Commissioners said Allen had violated a state law that stipulates that such agreements for tax collection services must be between county governments and the cities, not the tax commissioner.
The controversy ultimately resulted in Allen resigning the office she had held for more than 20 years and agreeing to return $80,000 to the county.
County Administrator Scott Johnson said the new contracts follow the law.
“The law mandates for counties with over 50,000 parcels that the governing authorities of the counties make these agreements,” he said. “This would be a step in that direction for us to comply with the law.”
In 2013, the tax commissioner collected $29,000 from Grovetown and $7,000 from Harlem for property tax collection. Johnson said interim Tax Commissioner Steve Adams will not receive additional pay for this service.
“The current tax commissioner has agreed to that and has said repeatedly that he does no additional work and doesn’t deserve, in his mind, any additional compensation for this,” he said.
When Commission Chairman Ron Cross inquired about the length of the agreements, Johnson said the state law allows contracts for up to 50 years, but said a 10-year contract was recommended.
“That’s up for debate. I feel like it can be set for any term,” he said.
Commissioners also agreed to set the commission for tax collection for the Board of Education at 2.25 percent, a slight reduction from previous years.
“We work with our Board of Education. I think we’ve got a good working relationship with them. As they have been continuing to get cut by the state, I think this is a good faith effort to be able to reduce these commissions a little bit,” Johnson said. “It’s still going to cover our costs and that’s the intent of the law, to cover our costs and not make any money off these entities.”
Commissioners are expected to make a final vote on the agreements at Tuesday’s meeting in Evans.