ALBANY, Ga. -- If the preliminary ad valorem tax collection numbers in Dougherty County are an indication, the state is not going to have to worry about sending money to the county when it "trues up" tax collections in the aftermath of the state's new automobile tax.
Tax Director Denver Hooten told the Dougherty County Commission Monday during her annual report that preliminary March ad valorem tax numbers were above $600,000, already surpassing the $438,000 in collections from a year ago.
The state, as part of HB 386, has agreed to send counties any shortfall when ad valorem tax numbers are less than the same month last year. The law kicked in March 1.
"I can't say at this time that these numbers have anything to do with the new vehicle registration law," Hooten said after the meeting. "I really can't explain why there's this pretty significant uptick. I'm very interested in seeing if this is just an anomaly or if the trend will continue.
"I think we'll begin to see a clearer picture in about six months."
Hooten told commissioners the property tax collection rate in the county is at 96 percent, with only $3 million of the almost $75 million in taxes due delinquent at this point.
"More than likely, by the time we get ready to do the tax sale, we'll be above 99 percent in collections," she said.
Hooten did take the opportunity to point out inequities in the state's tax collection and reimbursement system.
"We're penalized if we're one day late," she said, "but that definitely doesn't work both ways. The state only recently sent us funds from forest land reimbursement from 2011, and they owe the county $246,000 for 2012. There are a number of places that haven't gotten their 2011 money yet."
Hooten also pointed out that the state has not delivered printers to county tax offices that were promised.
"Our folks are having to double up on the printers that we have, and we have lines out the door," she said. "It's really frustrating because (county tax offices are) the motor vehicle agents for the state. And it's not like the money isn't there. They have the vendor and they have the money, but we're just sitting here."
Public Works Assistant Director Chucky Mathis also gave that department's annual report Monday, noting, among other items, the removal of 3.3 tons of debris in the county, maintenance of 30 miles of dirt roads, improvements at county parks, maintenance of 583 vehicles and pieces of equipment, and spraying of 93,535 acres of land in an attempt to eradicate the mosquito population.
"The heavy rains have made this year particularly busy for mosquitoes," Mathis said. "We're trying to treat as much standing water as we can to cut them off at the source, but we're also spraying when we can. Everyone needs to know that it's too cool for us to spray right now, but we'll resume spraying when the temperatures go up.
"We would like the citizens to help us contain the mosquito population by removing all standing, stagnant water."
Mathis, who noted that the Public Works staff had been cut from 66 employees in 2004 to its current 46, also recognized the department's employee of the year, heavy equipment operator Jordan Walker, and supervisor of the year, Thomas Bruce with the parks department.
"You guys are the face of the county to me. It means a lot that y'all do such a great job," District 1 Commissioner Lamar Hudgins said.
Prior to the start of the business meeting, former Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek, sporting a leather motorcycle jacket and longer hair than he'd had before retiring last year, made a pitch to invite commissioners to the third Lt. Cliff Rouse Memorial Dice Motorcycle Run April 6. Cheek said the event, which will be held at American Legion Post 30 on Gillionville Road and will benefit the C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) organization, would kick off with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m.
Cheek said funds will also be used to erect a permanent marker as a tribute to former DCP officer Rouse, who was killed in the line of duty, at DCP headquarters.