Gwinnett tax commissioner will pocket $34k for collecting city taxes

Tiffany P. Porter, Tax Commissioner of Gwinnett County, speaks to the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners during a meeting in Lawrenceville, Jan. 19. The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners approved contracts Tuesday that allow her to be paid for collecting city taxes. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

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Tiffany P. Porter, Tax Commissioner of Gwinnett County, speaks to the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners during a meeting in Lawrenceville, Jan. 19. The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners approved contracts Tuesday that allow her to be paid for collecting city taxes. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

Gwinnett County commissioners approved tax-collection contracts with three cities Tuesday that will raise the tax commissioner’s salary by more than $34,000.

The 4-1 approvals come after legislators tried to stop Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter, a Democrat elected in November, from charging cities per-parcel fees to collect taxes for them. The new law also targeted Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand, who for years has engaged in the practice to boost his own salary.

Porter’s base salary is $141,098. She refused to collect taxes for eight Gwinnett County cities without the additional fees — saying that she did not run to be tax commissioner of the cities, just the county.

While a number of cities pushed back against Porter, three agreed to pay the fees. In Dacula and Peachtree Corners, it will cost an additional $2 per parcel for taxes to be collected. In Berkeley Lake, the $1-per-parcel fee will go to Porter.

Commissioner Ben Ku, who voted to approve the contracts, said he was “very disappointed” by Porter, calling her actions abysmal.

“While this may be legal, it is the worst example of a politician profiting off of our taxpayers,” Ku said.

In a statement, Porter said all parties followed the law.

“The contracts expired on Dec. 31, 2020, and it’s abysmal that one or two commissioners have agendas that disrupted the process to renegotiate simple contracts for services,” she said.

Mike Mason, the mayor of Peachtree Corners, said his city’s contract was simply a business decision. It would have cost more for Peachtree Corners to collect on its own, he said, as Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Snellville and Sugar Hill elected to do.

“We just kind of want to move on,” Mason said. “There’s too much drama associated with it as it is.”

Still, Mason said, all future decisions remain open to discussion. County commissioners said they hoped these agreements didn’t represent a pattern.

While the new law was intended to prohibit Porter from charging fees for tax collection, it didn’t address storm water, solid waste or streetlight fees — all of which are also collected on tax bills. Peachtree Corners only charges residents for fees; it doesn’t have property tax. Dacula also collects fees, though Berkeley Lake does not.

Grayson, which only collects property taxes, pushed forward under the new law and made an agreement with Gwinnett County for tax collection that Porter was not party to.

Gwinnett Commissioner Kirkland Carden said he expects legal action as a result of that agreement.

Carden, the lone no vote, said he is concerned that the per-parcel fees won’t be listed separately on tax bills, and that there isn’t a collection threshold before Porter can collect the fees.

Carden’s mother, Regina Carden, also ran for tax commissioner and lost to Porter in the primary.

The chairwoman of the county commission, Nicole Love Hendrickson, said the three cities had decided the additional payments suited their needs.

“They found it to their benefit,” she said. “I voted to support those needs.”

Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, said he expected bipartisan legislation next year to address the issue.

“Tax commissioners should not raise taxes simply to increase their own paycheck,” he said.