POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Heard to pay back taxes after error found

Camie Young

Camie Young

While most Gwinnettians will have two tax bills this year, after the county's infamous second billing for 2009, John Heard may have to worry about a third.

Heard, a former state representative now running for county commissioner, will have to pay back taxes after officials learned he had been receiving a senior school exemption for the past decade.

Steve Pruitt, the county's chief assessor, said the error didn't amount to fraud or evil intent but had been added when Heard applied for his homestead exemption in 1999.

Heard, an architect, said he paid his taxes through an escrow account and wasn't aware of the problem until the Board of Assessors received an anonymous tip.

In the past decade, $33,155.34 in school taxes were not collected.

"It was an oversight in the tax collection process," Heard said. "I've always paid every tax bill I've had, and I will continue to."

The Board of Assessors originally ruled that Heard should pay for the past seven years of school taxes, which is as far back as state law will allow.

But because the board had a policy of only expecting payment for three years, the ruling was appealed on the basis of equal treatment, Pruitt said.

According to Richard Steele of the Tax Commissioner's Office, the bill for 2009 to 2007 -- which will total $9,591.44 -- will be mailed after the board finishes its process.

Heard said he hopes to reach a payment plan to cover the costs.

"If my tax bill can be wrong, is the county missing out on major revenues because of data entry errors?" he said.

Everson rails against Solis

Georgia Labor Commissioner candidate Melvin Everson said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis should resign.

Everson, who lives in Snellville, said Solis has disregarded federal immigration and labor laws with the promotion of a "fair wage" program for illegal immigrants.

Solis says all workers -- legal or not -- have the right to fair wages.

"There is no excuse for such an outreach effort to help legitimize this criminal behavior," Everson said. "American citizens are lining up at ballot boxes to say, 'We've had more than enough illegal immigration.' And yet here is a high-ranking federal official helping those breaking the law."

Everson is running for the Republican nomination for labor commissioner in the July 20 primary.

"I am dedicated to creating jobs and getting out-of-work Georgians back to work -- not helping out our illegal aliens," he said. "I am committed to working for Georgians and providing the new leadership direction they demand from this office."

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.