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Commissioner collects taxes; doesn't set rates
Virgil Jones1
Virgil Jones
Editor, First, I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to use your media as a source of information to help inform and educate the public on issues that pertain to the Office of the Liberty County Tax Commissioner.
This letter is in response to a letter published in the Coastal Courier on Sunday Dec. 30, entitled “What is going on in Liberty County?” submitted by a Sebrena M. Butler. In it, she basically expresses her disgust with the Liberty County Tax Commissioner’s Office for “waiting until the last minute,” as she says, to come up with millage rates for property taxes. She refers to the office as “negligent” in this responsibility and refers to the tax commissioner as “not competent” and “slacking,” all because she claims she did not receive all of her tax notices in time to have them all paid by Dec. 31.
Under different circumstances, I would not bother to respond to this letter. However, this writer attempted to appear to speak from facts only to be terribly wrong.  But in a case like this, if you allow someone to put out erroneous information to the public without someone attempting to correct the bad information, someone may believe that information as the truth; risking polluting other people’s minds.
What the writer failed to know is the tax commissioner and his office does not have anything to do with setting millage rates! The process is set up in a way that the tax commissioner does not have control over when rates are set or when tax notices are mailed.
For Sebrena Butler and any reader who may not know, the tax commissioner does not come up with millage rates! As an example, for a property in Hinesville, there are six independent millage rates needed, and again, the tax commissioner does not set any of them. A millage rate is necessary to be set and submitted by each of the following before bills can be calculated, printed and mailed: the board of commissioners, board of education, industrial authority, hospital authority, city of Hinesville and the Georgia Department of Revenue; again, not by the tax commissioner. Please keep in mind that the tax digest, which is the compilation of all taxable property, must be approved by the state before billing, which the digest cannot be submitted for approval until all millage rates are set (except the city of Hinesville’s millage rate is not necessary for the digest submission and approval but is necessary to send tax notices).
While I am at it, just in case she may not know this, the tax commissioner does not set the value of your property nor raise the value nor in any way determine how much your taxes are! When you take away the things that one may think the tax commissioner is responsible for, but is not, then you will find that the duty of the tax commissioner’s office is primarily to collect taxes and related revenue and disperse to the proper authorities. Also, you will find the responsibilities that the tax commissioner is sworn to fulfill is being handled in an appropriate and efficient manner, not deserving the false claims that the writer wanted to make her readers believe.
In defense of those taxing authorities that participate in this process, the process is not as simple as one may think. Also, there is no obligation by the county to guarantee a tax bill by the end of the year. Though many counties are able to bill property taxes by the end of the year, as Liberty County always has, there are also counties that do not. Many counties have unique circumstances that require them to bill in the manner that works appropriately in that county. Even in that, there was still the effort to accommodate property owners who wanted to have their taxes paid by Dec. 31. And contrary to the writer’s statements, taxes were available to be paid by a person or a mortgage company by year end.
Even with what she wrote and the manner that she chose to express her views, in her defense, Will Rogers is quoted as saying, “Everybody is guilty of ignorance (respectfully meaning ‘lack of knowledge’), only on different subjects.” One of her subjects may be the topic of how local government and property taxation actually works; my subject may be something else. The writer apparently is familiar with the Coastal Courier, which printed related articles on this topic just recently. Please read these related articles printed Oct. 24, Nov. 11 and Nov. 23, 2007. In reading her comments, it reminds me that there is always a need to keeping striving to get good and accurate information out to the public so that one can react based on facts.
Taxpayers who have concerns and who need assistance call and visit the tax commissioner’s office daily. Assisting people is what we do. I personally spend much of my time in the office or by telephone assisting taxpayers who have questions and concerns. If the writer had only just contacted the tax commissioner’s office before “venting” she could have prevented sending such erroneous comments out to the public. Therefore, I encourage a citizen to contact us if they have any concerns about the functions of this office before assuming something or forming and expressing a wrong and unfair conclusion. We would be more than happy to assist you.
And as always, I am still honored to serve as your tax commissioner.

Virgil M. Jones
Tax Commissioner
Liberty County
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