LETTERS: HB 159 neither efficient nor fiscally responsible

Under the guise of protecting homeowners from foreclosure and the IRS, Georgia House Bill 159 seeks to have all fees billed separate from our property tax bill. While that sounds like a good idea on the surface, I can find no record of any Georgia property owner being foreclosed upon solely for non-payment of fees. Secondly, protecting us from the IRS is akin to NYC's jumbo soft drink ban.

In fact, this bill, if passed, will have two negative impacts -- the cost of billing will increase and the amount of bad debt will increase. Both of these additional costs will be passed along to homeowners in the form of higher fees to cover these shortfalls.

Most local politicians I know complain about unfunded federal mandates to the states but seem to have no problem when the state proposes unfunded mandates to the counties or municipalities. HB 159 proposes a classic unfunded state mandate, and worst of all is being sponsored by a local legislator who campaigned on fiscal responsibility and efficient effective government. HB 159 will produce neither.

Additionally, the same legislator is attempting to alter the Gwinnett Storm Water Authority through local legislation that will ultimately increase those fees. This is bad legislation and I urge every Gwinnettian to contact their state senator and representative to oppose HB 159 as well as the local legislation.

-- James H. Jimmy Orr Jr.,



ptm4936 2 years, 6 months ago

It's about time someone exposed this for what it really is - bad legislation. I can't imagine the BOC is okay with passing on these increased costs to the voters. Can't imagine that the honest citizens want to bear the increased costs of the deadbeats.


R 2 years, 6 months ago

Respectfully, lets review what would take place should this bill become law, which is things that are really taxes now would simply be called what they are.

Streetlight fees aren't fees they are a county offered public service and we have no control over the their use once installed.

Storm-water services are a tax that many knew we needed and worked early on during boom times to push unto the builder developers back in the 1980s and 1990s. Fact is we were outmaneuvered then so now the property owners pick those up. We have no opt out and limited input on on how revenues generated are deployed, just like other taxes we pay.

That seems to be the trend developing - fees are charged for services we can choose to use or not. Libraries, pools, parks, parking and Chamber of Commerce functions, these and many more are examples based on choice - the ability to refuse. Cities and counties can continue to leave things on tax bills - they just have to formally be "taxes" and voted on as same.

The issue would not have been raised if governments at all levels hadn't punished the envelope acquiring functions that were formerly run in the private sector, like refuse collection for example.

Of course we could wait for foreclosure actions before we raise flags, but the fact is property foreclosures by governments for failing to pay trash "fees" have already occurred in middle GA counties and city jurisdictions. The cases have been heard by state courts and are part of the record. I respectfully suggest the original author do some research in State of GA. legal journals about his belief in the lack of case activity.

If the item on the property tax-bill can't be acknowledged and supported as a tax by elected officials, it shouldn't be there.

In the specific case of Gwinnett's trash plan if it were not on the tax bill, the entire program as we know it today wouldn't exist.The consultant costs and wasted legal fees we all incurred and are still paying for today also wouldn't exist.

The bill text as created by Brett Harrell is sound and a step to restoring faith in governance...

Poor fiscal conservatism? Hardly

Raising costs? Only where governments are trying to outdo private sector contributions for revenue streams and offer to use their collection powers inappropriately to do so.

Encouraging our elected officials to acknowledge reality - Priceless...


Jan 2 years, 6 months ago

I fully agree with Mr. Orr on this. He has presented the facts well. R, on the other hand, seems to be using the garbage as his main argument for this legislation with a false premise. Passing this legislation will not nullify the counties involvement in the garbage problem. I could not find the stats, but I do know that many cities and counties have total control of the trash plans which are paid using property tax funds. This would give the county two quick options that allows the continuation of the current system. 1, increase taxes sufficiently to insure full payment to the trash companies. 2, keep the same districts, shift billing back to the companies and allow a slight increase in fees to cover billing and collection costs. Option 2, obviously, increases cost to everyone. Option 1 would disproportionally increase taxes on owners of more valuable properties. Since companies have contracts, any other option would need to be negotiated and could result in additional law suits using more tax payer dollars. It is obvious that the Rep. Brett Harrell has a personal prejudice in presenting this bill.


R 2 years, 6 months ago

Once again as I clearly put forth, the bill text being discussed as presented will not raise resident costs at all. PERIOD.

What it would do is force items that are clearly taxes in reality, to be CLEARLY identified as such. The only state mandate being placed on elected officials is to be HONEST in terminology.

Gwinnet’s specific trash plan came into the discussion on two fronts:

1) First the author was unaware of any foreclosures due to the fee premise – refuted by cases from central GA on the very basis of fees.

(If anyone needs links to the case cites, please comment)

2) The champion of Gwinnett current plan, Former Commissioner Mike Beaudreau
clearly stated back in the day that the plan that we have now would not work if it WASN’T on the tax bill. So POOF - there it sits ...

In many states east of the Mississippi river, government entities in the form of cities, boroughs, townships and counties have municipal services that may contain sanitation as an offering - and you guessed it they are paid by TAXES on tax bills.

WHY is it so hard to call something what it really is?

So if anyone can explain clearly that anount sitting on my tax bill in 2012 refered to a "fee" is going to cost me more dollars in 2013 when its then called a "tax", you are welcome to begin now - we are all patiently waiting.


R 2 years, 6 months ago

So further proof that it WON'T raise your costs as so many fear, here a link for those who might care to read the bill text being discussed.

Enjoy! Just remember it's only your money ...


Issues created by the practice:

Local governments claim administrative cost savings [HB 159 permits flexibility such as providing a separate invoice in the same mailing.]

Local governments claim reduction in delinquent payments and bad debts [Tax Commissioners report similar collection rates with separate billings.]


Jan 2 years, 6 months ago

Are you serious? This is NOT the bill text. It is simply the same argument being pushed forward. It makes a major false assumption - that commissioners will choose to allow all fees to be billed separately, thus increasing billing and collection costs. Commissioners have the authority to just up the millage rate to cover the fees and classify the fee items as county services. It also makes the assumption that lending companies will ignore the fee part of the homeowners obligations while they can pressure borrowers to include this in the escrow account. This is just another example of ill proposed legislation so they can look busy without actually accomplishing anything.


R 2 years, 6 months ago

Main site link for GA House of Representatives http://www.house.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx

HB 159 status detail link http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/159

HB 159 text PDF link http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20132014/129227.pdf

What is the concern - is it too short?

That we don’t have to pass it, to find out what’s in it?

The “essential services” won’t be cut. Your “cost” as you point out won’t go up, but items that the local governments deem to be “essential services” will be billed as the taxes they actually are.

The only real short coming for local government officials is that they will have a more complex time “raising taxes” on a certain set of their citizens, while granting “tax” breaks to a smaller group as the next election cycle nears…

Or maybe we just change the name of the items to penalty and call it a day, since the Supreme Court has already equated that word to TAX.


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