The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments by attorneys for Robert Mesteller, a Snellville resident challenging Gwinnett County's way of collecting payment on sanitation services. The money is collected on tax bills, which Mesteller claims is illegal and unconstitutional.
The outcome of Mesteller’s appeal won’t be heard for several weeks. However, even if it fails, state Rep. Brett Harrell, whose district includes Snellville and parts of Loganville and Grayson, is also taking on the issue. He is re-introducing legislation in January to prevent municipalities from using tax bills to collect anything other than taxes.
Harrell said his reason for re-introducing House Bill 291 is not opposition to any particular program, just with the billing mechanism.
“In Georgia, we have non-judicial foreclosure; so, the lien is placed on your home and you are not even afforded an opportunity to stand before a judge and plead your case - again for non-taxes,” Harrell told Loganville-Grayson Patch.
Gwinnett County officials, however, say that if either Mesteller’s lawsuit or Harrell’s legislation succeeds, the outcome might not be so good for county taxpayers.
Joe Sorenson, communications director for Gwinnett County, warns that if the county were unable to bill for trash collection through the property tax billing system, it would have to create a new billing system or significantly modify an existing one.
“Either option would increase costs,” Sorenson said. “Additionally, the payment rate for property taxes is about 99 percent. Other billing payment rates are significantly lower and the costs associated with non-payment would become a liability for the remainder of the customers. Just as the case with any business, the cost of uncollectible bills has to be included in the cost of operation and the rate structure."
Sorenson said it was unfortunate, but those who plan their bills faithfully wind up paying for those who do not.
"The higher the rate of non-payment, the greater the burden on those who pay,” Sorenson said.