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2009 tax bills are higher than 2008
State drops relief grants
Virgil Jones his pix
Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones
Deadlines and payment plans

The deadline to pay property taxes in Liberty County is Thursday, Feb. 25.
Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones said his department looks at each situation individually to help residents come up with a payment arrangement that will work.
“We try to make payment agreements that will allow us to receive payment in full in a few weeks or a few months and still allow the property owner to be able to afford to make the payments that they agree to,” he said.

Liberty County resident Al Padrick knew change was coming when he opened his property tax bill this month. “They were pretty much where I thought they’d be,” Padrick said of his 2009 taxes. “I knew what to expect there, with what Gov. Perdue had done.”
What the governor and the Georgia legislature did this year is precisely what many taxpayers are angry about. Earlier this year, the legislature decided against funding the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant, a surplus fund that in the past decade has allowed the state to pay a portion of the taxes on properties with
homestead exemptions.
Georgia’s government tried not to approach taxpayers with completely empty pockets: the legislature did manage to pass HB 233, which freezes property values at their 2008 value for three years beginning this year.
Liberty County Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones said even though property values and local millage rates were frozen at their 2008 net rates, the lack of grant relief means taxpayers are seeing an increase of anywhere between $200-$300.
This increase has many people upset, Jones said, though he said he’s probably seen fewer angry customers than if the office hadn’t included notices that explained the increase in property tax bills when they were delivered. Jones also submitted a letter to the editor in June where he explained that HTRG generated an average savings to qualified homeowners of $260 in 2008.
“Why is it not being given any longer? Because of declining state revenues during the recent recession the money is not there for the state to give the tax relief to homeowners,” Jones wrote. “This produces a $430 million savings to the state. Though many legislators fought to keep the HTRG and try to cut the budget elsewhere, it was not successful.”
In the future, the state will only fund the grant if state revenues grow at least three percent, plus the rate of inflation.
Jones and Padrick both said they think the state will reach its revenue goal in the next year and be able to fund the grant again. “I think it’ll come back,” Padrick said. “I think they’ve got too many voters and taxpayers for it not to.”
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