The epicenter of the political swamp may be Washington, DC, but obviously, a swamp can grow in other locations- like Gwinnett County. The latest swamp adventure comes to the county courtesy of the newly elected tax commissioner, Tiffany Porter who thinks a salary of $141,000 a year isn’t enough. According to an AJC article, she wants to sock it to the cities (that means the property tax payers) so she can collect an additional $110,000 a year.
The most unfortunate part of the story is that what Porter is proposing is legal, although most people would have to consider it legal theft- courtesy of the state legislature. Although it is illegal for all other elected officials to personally profit from their positions, county tax commissioners are permitted to do so, at the expense of residents who live in cities that contract with the county tax commissioner to collect city property taxes.
This may be justified for in counties where tax commissioners are not paid employees, but charge a fee for their services. Their compensation comes in the form of the fee they charge for each parcel for which they collect property tax.
In Gwinnett County, the tax commissioner is paid the previously mentioned $141,000 salary. Apparently, Porter thinks she’s entitled to more. Currently, eight cities within the county have contracted to have the county tax commissioner collect city property taxes. Those contracts, signed when Richard Steele, the previous tax commissioner was in office, expired at the end of 2020. Steele charged the cities $1.37 per parcel, all the fees went to the county and the department ran with a surplus. Porter proposes to raise that to $1.80 per parcel, and then add a $2.00 per parcel fee to put in her pocket.
According to the AJC article, she stated cities have been under-paying for tax collections, “which requires expensive systems and highly-trained staff.” If that’s the case, using those expensive systems and highly trained staff to put money in her personal bank account would appear to be theft. (Legal theft, but theft nonetheless.) How else could you classify using county resources and staff to create personal profit?
Another justification used by Porter is that if Gwinnett cities were in Fulton County, they would pay even more for property tax collection. In this case, Porter is essentially telling city property tax payers, “I’m giving you a good deal. I only took $2.00 out of your pocket. The guy over in Fulton County would have taken $3.00.”
That’s like a murderer saying, “I’m not such a bad guy. I only murdered five people, that guy over there murdered 10 people”.