Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey is in a unique position to ensure other cities in Georgia get a fair shake when brokering deals with county tax commissioners to collect municipal taxes.
Harvey has plenty of experience dealing with such a situation. He and other city officials in January learned that newly elected tax commissioner, Jeff Chapman, was refusing to continue collecting unpaid 2016 taxes because he said the agreement his office and the city had for years was no longer valid. He was right, a new agreement was needed, but under state law, he had to continue collecting taxes for the previous year because the office had already started.
The tax commissioner then requested the city pay him an extra $6,000 on top of the $20,000 personal fee the city had been paying the previous commissioner under the old agreement. That is on top of the $90,000 the city had been paying for the actual collection of taxes.
City manager Jim Drumm did some research, though, and found out it had been paying a lot more than almost every other city for the same services. The city made a counter offer in line with its research, which was not accepted by Chapman. So for this year, the tax commissioner is getting the higher rate, but starting next year, the city will bring property tax collection in house.
All of this could have been avoided with a little compromise, but despite clear and compelling evidence the city was overpaying, Chapman did not budge on his price.
Harvey is now on a subcommittee with the Georgia Municipal Association that is going to consider how the General Assembly might change laws to prevent a similar situation from happening elsewhere.
We hope Harvey and the subcommittee are successful in developing a plan to ensure Georgia law protects cities from paying more than is necessary for what is a basic function of government.
The collection of taxes and how much it costs a city to have the county do it should not be clouded by politics, as it seems has happened here. By being a part of a group to write legislation to prevent that, Harvey has a chance to make a real impact on the rest of the state.
We wish it could have gone differently locally, but at least Brunswick and Glynn County’s situation can lead to positive statewide change.