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Digest revised, most tax bills due Dec. 29

Tax digest figures have been adjusted and both the Grady County Commission and Board of Education are punting in hopes of getting tax bills to local taxpayers earlier than previously reported.
According to Grady County Administrator Rusty Moye, an incomplete return submitted by the Timken Company to the county tax assessor’s office resulted in an inaccurate growth figure in personal property.
Tax Assessor Susan Bennett transmitted digest figures to the county commission and in those figures was recorded a $24,626,583 increase in personal property. That error was not known until after city of Cairo officials tipped off the tax assessor’s office that the Timken return was incomplete because it did not account for depreciation.
However, by the time officials determined the digest was inaccurate, both the county commission and board of education had adopted tentative millage rates.
The actual amount of growth in personal property is  $1,635,283, according to revised tax assessor records.
On Monday, commissioners conducted a special called meeting to discuss the revised digest and set a date for final adoption.
Commissioners previously set the tentative millage rate at 10.5 mills. Moye noted that 10.5 mills will actually bring in approximately $35,000 less in tax revenue than the same millage rate generated last year.
In order to balance the budget, the county will have to dip into its cash reserves to the tune of $243,180. Even with that, the reserve account will still total just over $2.8 million.
According to the county administrator, Ms. Bennett will remove Timken from the list of appealable taxpayers which means that less than three percent of the total digest will be appealable. Until Timken was removed, the county could not move forward with obtaining state approval of the digest and processing tax notices until the 45-day appeals process ended.
Moye says that taking Timken out of the equation clears the way for approximately 10,000 tax notices to be mailed by Oct. 30. Those initial tax notices will be due and payable on Dec. 29. The remaining 3,320 notices, which are appealable, will not be mailed until mid-November and will not be due until sometime in early 2010.
Ms. Bennett did not mail out assessment notices for the 3,320 on the appealable value list until Oct. 1. Once the notices are mailed, taxpayers have 45 days in which to appeal the change in assessment.
“We are working with the tax assessor’s office to expedite the finalizing of the digest and moving forward with getting the tax notices in the mail,” Moye said Monday.
During the called meeting Monday, commissioners approved the expenditure of  $5,982.35 to Diversified Companies, LLC, for the processing and mailing of all 13,000 tax notices.
Tax Commissioner Phyllis Gainous recommended using the third party vendor rather than processing the bills in house because the private company can not only do the work for less money, but can complete the process in two to three days as opposed to approximately five days for the tax office staff.
A previous motion authorizing funds for postage for the tax commissioner’s office was rescinded Monday by the board.
The commission has now scheduled a called meeting for Thursday, Oct. 29, at 8:30 a.m. to vote on final adoption of the millage rate and the 2010 operating budget.
Grady County School System officials are also scrambling to wrap up work on the FY2010 budget.
The revised digest leaves the school board facing a $101,648 revenue shortfall.
Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis said that the board is committed to maintaining the current tax rate of 12.9 mills. However, that tax rate when applied to the revised digest generates less revenue than needed to balance the budget.
“We will be looking at not replacing some positions and using more part-time staffing to make the budget work,” Dr. Pharis said. If those adjustments are not enough the superintendent says he will recommend the board dip into cash reserves to balance the budget.
The school board will meet at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, to vote on final adoption of the millage rate and the 2009-2010 operating budget.
“The tentative schedule, as it is, and the anticipated date the bills will go out with the majority being due before the end of the year is a good thing. Some will go out later and not be due until next year. I am pleased the majority will be due this year and not rolled into 2010,” Commission Chairman Bobby Burns said this week.
Members of the commission have expressed concern with the operations of the tax assessor’s office and until Monday feared that none of the tax notices would be due until 2010.

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