ORR: Why I oppose HB 159

To set the stage so to speak, there is absolutely nothing wrong with counties and municipalities throughout the State of Georgia collecting non-tax fees on annual ad valorem property tax statements. These non-tax fees, which support public services such as street lights, stormwater service, speed humps, trash collection and, in some locales, public safety, are necessitated in part to provide some of the core services of county and municipal governments. Collections on the annual property tax statements are a convenient way for residents to pay and for county or municipal governments to collect whether through escrow accounts on mortgages or via direct payment. These non-tax fees are obligations that must be met whether paid on property tax statements or via separate billing. Keep in mind, that if House Bill 159 should pass (heaven forbid), any increase in costs to effect separate billing would be passed onto the taxpayers.

With that out of the way, let me explain how this legislation making its way through the 2013 session of the General Assembly came up on my radar. As a current member of the Gwinnett County Stormwater Authority, we members were advised at our quarterly meeting on Jan. 25 that 106th District Rep. Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) had filed a notice of intent to introduce local legislation to remove only the stormwater service fee from the annual Gwinnett County ad valorem property tax statements. Keep in mind that this intent was to file local legislation through the Gwinnett County Legislative Delegation, which is comprised of the state representatives and state senators who represent Gwinnett County. As such local delegations have their own rules. Most are 50 percent + 1 to pass local legislation.

During our Jan. 25 meeting, with a full quorum of seven members present, county staffers from the stormwater utility division advised us that if separate billing of the stormwater service fee was initiated, we could incur additional expenses of as much as $3.5 million in reduced collections, increased billing costs, increased staffing, new billing system development, etc. Ongoing, since the inception of the stormwater service fee, our rate of collection stands at 99 percent. For you Gwinnett County residents, this is a matter of public record. Our stormwater utility is funded entirely from stormwater service fees collected via the annual property tax billing. We could ill afford to lose revenue via separate billing as our mission is not only in maintaining the countywide stormwater drainage system, but also in meeting Georgia Environmental Protection Division mandates. These obligations must be met. Therefore, any increase in costs to operate our utility would be passed onto the taxpayers. Same scenario on the statewide legislation introduced via House Bill 159.

As previously stated, Harrell’s local legislation was directed only at removing the stormwater service fee from the annual Gwinnett County ad valorem property tax statements. The reason for this is that the Stormwater Authority was created via Senate Bill 147, which mandated that the stormwater service fee be collected on the property tax bill. Since this constitutes local legislation, SB 147 would have to be amended accordingly to compliment HB 159. Harrell’s House Bill 159 is a statewide bill to remove all non-tax fees from property tax bills collected by county and municipal governments. I, as a resident of Gwinnett County adamantly oppose Harrell’s local legislation and his House Bill 159. I trust you other residents throughout the state of Georgia will let your state representative and state senator know that you likewise oppose House Bill 159. To do otherwise would mean that any additional costs to effect separate billing for non-tax fees would be passed onto “We the People,” aka taxpayers. Ladies and gentlemen, it is that simple.

Harrell introduced this same legislation as House Bill 291 in February 2011. His bill was passed out of the Ways and Means Committee in March 2011, and after much opposition from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association, House Bill 291 was withdrawn in April 2011. House Bill 291 was not reconsidered during the 2012 session. Said bill effectively “died on the vine” in 2012. The ACCG and the GMA have announced their opposition to House Bill 159.

Each of you have heard the old saying that “all that glitters is not gold.” While on the surface House Bill 159 may seem to “glitter,” this bill is not gold. The only “gold” that would be associated with Harrell’s local legislation and House Bill 159 would be that which would come out of the taxpayers wallets and pocketbooks to offset the increase cost of separate billing and loss in revenues.

Jimmy Orr is a resident of Bethlehem.


ptm4936 2 years, 7 months ago

Nobody says it better than my friend Jimmy Orr. HB159 is dressed up like a taxpayer benefit when in fact it is an unfunded mandate to the counties and municipalities that will cost the honest taxpayers more in the long run. Tell your Representative to kill this charlatan.


bobm 2 years, 5 months ago

Mr Orr needs to get his facts straight. Read HB159 It says that counties can put multiple bills in the annual tax bill envelope. It will cost the counties nothing extra put all fees on one bill and include the fees bill with the property tax bill. Sorry Mr Orr your 3 million estimate for extra postage is just blown out of the water. Counties also send out a monthly water bill all fees can be included in this billing. No fees should increase a house payment. My house payment went up $40.08 in 2010 as a result of the county putting $386. 18 month advance of a garbage bill on my property tax statement. In 2009 we had a big tax increase my house payment went up $41 dollars. In 2010 the garbage bill increased by house payment another $40.08 I was forced to refinance. I refinanced 4 years prior to reduce my house payment by $100 and in a stroke of a pen in 2 years my house payment went up $80. Also there is a lien put on your property for non payment of a garbage bill.


notblind 2 years, 7 months ago

On the other hand, charging homeowners a stormwater runoff fee is just another BS tax. It would be interesting to take a poll among lifetime gooberment bureaucrats and ask them how much of a citizen's income they think the citizen is entitled to keep. The middle class taxpayers probably pay gooberment entities 50% or more of our income right now and they keep finding new concepts for taking more and more.


JohninSuwanee 2 years, 7 months ago

I totally agree with you "notblind". Not a single drop of rainwater drains off of my house or driveway into the county drain water system, yet every year I'm faced with having to pay this fee. I've raised the issue only to be told "too bad"! It's not an option to not pay it, because if I subtract the amount from the bill in protest, the county claims I haven't paid my taxes in full. Like all politicians, they are talking out of both sides of their mouths. I'm personally glad that these are being separated, because it exposes them for the bogus charges they are!


bobm 2 years, 5 months ago

Mr Orr needs to get his facts straight. Read HB159, it says that counties can put multiple bills in with the property tax statement. All they have to do is include all the fees on one bill and put it in the same envelope as the property tax bill. No extra cost like Mr Orr claims of over 3 million dollars. There should be no lien on your property for non payment of any fees. I refinanced my home in 2006 to drop my payment $100. In 2009 we had a big tax increase, by house payment went up $41 in 2010 the county put 18 months worth of trash bill on the property tax $386, my house payment went up $40.08. So in 2 years at the stoke of a pen my house payment went up $80, I was forced to refinance again. Out founding father would be rolling over in their graves if they heard that their was a lien on our property for non payment of a trash bill. Our founding fathers were strong supporters of property rights, both real and personal and they believed that the government had no right to your property.


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