Gwinnett County gets temporary OK to collect taxes

Rates will cost county about $6 million in lost revenue

A Superior Court judge signed an order Thursday granting Gwinnett County a temporary collection order for 2009 taxes.

Superior Court Judge R. Timothy Hamil granted the request after a week of legal wrangling between the county and its municipalities to hash out a temporary tax levy.

The order permits the county to use the 2008 millage rate of 10.97 and the 2009 tax digest for all residents. In addition, the order allows the school system to use the already adopted millage rate of 20.55, and it grants the county authority to collect taxes from the cities of Grayson, Lawrenceville and Sugar Hill.

Because property values have fallen in the past year, county and city officials had originally settled for a temporary mill rate of 11.18 to generate the same revenue as in 2008. But the judge announced Wednesday that the rate should remain at the 2008 level and be applied to the 2009 tax digest.

The lower rate means the county could collect about $6 million less in revenues than if the higher rate had been approved. County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister said if a settlement isn’t worked out for a permanent mill levy to make up the difference, more budget cuts could come.

The county needed the special order to issue tax notices because it has not formally established a mill levy. That action is tied up until the county resolves a service dispute with its 15 cities.

County tax notices usually are mailed out by mid-July, and the delay has left many local governments in a bind, awaiting revenues.