Potential litigation, higher tax collection fees in limbo

By Greg Gelpi

Although the Clayton County Board of Commissioners approved charging roughly an additional $2 million to the Clayton County school system to collect taxes, it has yet to do so.

The commission agreed to change its collection fee from 1.9 percent to 2.5 percent in July and begin collecting the nearly $2 million in extra fees at the start of the year.

Although County Attorney Don Comer isn't sure why the county has yet to charge the higher fee, he said he will bring the issue to the commission at its next board meeting.

Since the school system threatened legal action, Comer said the matter will be discussed in executive session. The county has raised the fee, which is charged to cover expenses in tax collection, in July, but the school system said legal action would be taken if higher fees were actually charged.

"The school system has already told us they were going to sue us," he said.

School system attorney Gary Sams said that he would prefer to avoid a lawsuit, but stands by his position that the increase is illegal.

"We don't want to spend the money on litigation if we don't have to," Sams said.

Comer said the new commission may choose not to collect the higher fees, but that it will be up to the commission on how to proceed.

"I haven't found anything to change my mind," Sams said. "There's no 100 percent guarantee in anything you do."

The county's decision came around the same time that the county and school system parted ways on a joint venture to construct an aquatic center.

Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam said during a meeting earlier in the month that she thought the fees were raised to force the issue of the aquatic center.

"That was the feeling because of the timing of the act," Sams said.

The higher collection fees could impact the school system's budget "quite severely," Pulliam said.

The county and school system later made amends and are currently working to build the aquatic center.