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Gwinnett Begins 2012 Budget Process

Tax commissioner's office seeks additional staff for delinquent collections.

Updated Sept. 8, 2011.

Gwinnett County began its budget process for the coming fiscal year Tuesday by hearing a request from the tax commissioner's office, the chief bill collector for the government and Gwinnett schools.

Gwinnett Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash and Chief Financial Officer Aaron Bovos were among those at the session at the Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville, along with a hand-selected citizen review panel.

Steele, whose department collects both property taxes and vehicle license fees, said his department wants an $11.1 million budget for FY 2012.

The commissioner wants to add up to four full-time staffers to seek deliquent taxes from businesses.

"Business inventory is much easier to walk (without paying taxes)," Steele told those in attendance.

Paula Martin of the tax commissioner's office said in an e-mail that a full-cost allocation plan was approved in July of this year. This means that services and facilities used by the county in previous and current years are now allocated to all government offices in an equitable manner and therefore represents a net increase of zero dollars to the taxpayer

Steele's office collected about $1.1 billion in taxes and fees in 2010. Motor vehicle fees accounted for about $88 million. "We are the face of the county a lot of times," he said.

After his presentation, Nash asked Steele, "If you were czar for a day, what would you change?"

Responded Steele: "If we could send electronic notices for property taxes ... it would be a big help."

Though property values have declined in recent years, Steele noted that the tax digest in Gwinnett grew 112 percent -- about $458 million to $973 million -- from 2001-10. Steele said that caused a "dramatic increase in workload" to his office.

The Clerk of Courts office is seeking a budget of $18.3 million, a slight increase. It wants an additional staffer for the Board of Equalization, which handles property tax appeals and hearings. Those have increased markedly in the past year in the county, administrator Mark Wozniak noted.

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