Judge to consider millage rate hike, dual rates out.

LAWRENCEVILLE - A judge Tuesday balked at assessing different millage rates for people who live inside or outside city limits in Gwinnett, but he will consider setting a temporary higher rate, according to proceedings to allow a temporary collection of taxes.

The judicial intervention was made necessary after county officials failed to set a 2009 millage rate, at this point, one month after property tax bills are usually mailed.

School officials said they would run into the red by October without a temporary collection, and county officials said they are already strapped for cash.

The $80 million monthly payroll for teachers, as well as the payroll for city and county governments are in jeopardy.

Judge Timothy Hamil said he understood the need and would attempt to act quickly, but he speedily dismissed a proposal to set dual rates, since the county's tax rate had not been divided among city and non-city residents in the past.

County officials had proposed rates of 10.94 mills for unincorporated residents and 12 mills for incorporated residents, compared to the 2008 rate of 10.97.

After Hamil expressed his hesitancy 20 minutes into the proceedings in a courtroom packed with mayors, councilman and officials from 14 cities and the county and school system governments, lawyers conferred for more than an hour.

When they returned, county attorneys sought a rate of 11.19 mills, which Finance Director Aaron Bovos said would yield the same amount of money for the county coffers as 2008, as property values have dropped.

Hamil, though, asked for the convening of the Board of Commissioners to publicly vote on a recommendation of the rate. That meeting is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. today.