County to file petition to collect taxes

LAWRENCEVILLE - Tax bills could be issued soon, as county officials announced they would seek a court order to free the issue from a service delivery dispute.

Gwinnett Chairman Charles Bannister said Tuesday a petition for a temporary collection order would be filed today in Gwinnett Superior Court as the speediest way to collect revenues for local and state governments.

In an article Sunday, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported that Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks and mayors were considering actions to force the delivery of the bills, which are normally mailed in mid-July, to avoid borrowing money to make payroll.

The county government has yet to set a millage rate, after commissioners voted against a proposed property tax increase last month, but the tax commissioner also collects taxes for the state, the school system and seven cities.

"Tax billing has been tangled" in a lawsuit over services between the county and its 15 cities, Bannister said in a press release Tuesday. "Other options run the very real risk of inviting actions that could take several more weeks or longer to resolve. We think this action strategy will get the billing process going for 2009. All of us - the county, the cities and especially the schools - need tax revenues to meet payrolls and other obligations."

While details would have to be worked out with a judge, officials said they would recommend bills be based on 2009 property values, officials said. The judge will determine the schedule and could determine a county millage rate for temporary billing.

The legal maneuver would not be a permanent solution, and officials would have to pursue further accounting at the end of the year, County Administrator Jock Connell said. County commissioners could determine a final millage rate later in the year. The possible outcomes could require a second set of bills or a refund.

"This will present administrative concerns and questions for our finance staff and especially the tax commissioner," Connell said in the release.

The release said the county has begun consultations with Tax Commissioner Katherine Meyer.