Grayson does not collect those fees, and moved forward with an agreement under the new state law that Porter was not a party to.
After Grayson’s city council voted unanimously Thursday to use Porter’s office to collect the city’s taxes — but not to pay her additional fees — Mayor Allison Wilkerson said she had not heard of Porter’s intent regarding a lawsuit.
In a statement, Wilkerson said she was grateful the county would continue to collect property taxes, which she said “is the most efficient use of taxpayer funds.”
Porter, in an email, said coverage of the cities’ tax collection concerns had been “skewed,” but did not respond to a request for comment about Grayson’s agreement, or ongoing negotiations with Berkeley Lake, Dacula or Peachtree Corners — the other cities for which Porter has said she would not collect fees without additional payment.
Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason said that city intends to pay Porter $2 a parcel to collect taxes because the cost not to do so would be higher.
“It’s a business decision,” he said. “You try to just make the best business decision you can, whether you agree with it or not.”
Brian Johnson, Peachtree Corners’ city manager, said the city has a high response rate for payment because the fees that it charges go out on county property tax bills. But Peachtree Corners doesn’t charge a property tax, and Johnson said he would expect collections to go down if people are only asked to pay fees.
He said the city would have to pay more to hire people to do the work, and there would be little recourse if collections dropped. The cost to the city could be as much as $1 million.
“You have to disassociate yourself emotionally from the fact that it ‘doesn’t seem fair,’” Mason said. “Get over it.”
But there are still frustrations about Porter’s actions.
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, said legislators’ intent was clear: Tax commissioners shouldn’t charge per-parcel fees while collecting taxes to raise their own salaries. He said legislators next year will look to change the law, if Porter doesn’t change her mind first.
“There’s been an outpouring of opposition from the public to this,” he said. “I certainly hope the tax commissioner reconsiders her position and further work to address it isn’t necessary.”
Carden, the Gwinnett County commissioner, said he wants to see a provision in the three cities’ agreements that would break out the salary increase for Porter as a line item on tax bills. He also wants the contract to require Porter to reach a certain collection threshold before she gets paid.
Carden’s mother, Regina Carden, ran for tax commissioner and lost to Porter in the primary.
“I’m disappointed Ms. Porter continues to use her talents to personally enrich herself and not to serve Gwinnett County,” Carden said. “This is wrong.”
County commissioners are scheduled to vote on Porter’s contracts with three cities June 15, all of which would include a per-parcel fee that would net her an additional $34,000. Four other cities — Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Snellville and Sugar Hill — decided to collect taxes on their own rather than pay Porter to do so.