Digging Deeper: Garbage needs to go - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Digging Deeper: Garbage needs to go

Although a judge has ordered Lee County's Tax Commissioner to put garbage fees on property tax bills, the fight will rage on.

Thursday Tax Commissioner Susan Smith said she would appeal the ruling Judge James Sizemore made yesterday.

It's expected to be filed in the next week. The county continues to lose millions in uncollected fees as they drag delinquent owners to court.

Right now, Lee County is owed more than a million dollars in unpaid garbage pickup fees. Hundreds of people and businesses are not paying their monthly bills.

The county wants to add garbage fees to property tax bills, but the tax commissioner opposes that. Now a judge has sided with the county.

"It's a very strong decision in favor of the county arguing not only does the county commission have the right to pass the ordinance requesting and directing the tax commission to collect these garbage fees but also it is permissible and allowable under Georgia common law or general law," said Lee County Administrator Tony Massey.

The county feels they're in the right and they're not the only government doing this.

"In 2009, there were seven counties in Georgia that collected their garbage fees on the tax rolls, that's now up to 16 it's a growing trend," said Massey.

The tax commissioner will appeal the ruling. Digging deeper we wanted to know who owed these fees. He's what we found, five businesses owe, Shooters Billiards, the previous owners owe back bills, Coney Lake Lodge, Grayson Roberts Taxidermy, Wachovia, and RPM Corporation, who owes the most at over $2,600.

Of the most recent group the county's printed dating back to April, 176 people owe the county more than $90,498 in total. Just one person owes more than $1,000. On a list of old cases they've taken to court more than 37 people owe more than a thousand dollars in garbage fees. To put it in perspective of how log they've owed the county, annually a garbage bill is $276.

"A lot of them are repeat offenders, some are property owners, then again we think there's a fair amount of renters that's included in that as well," said Massey.

Which is why putting it on the property taxes gets landlords involved to help the county with renters who don't think they have to pay. Susan Smith the tax commissioner wouldn't talk with us on camera, she did tell us the reason she'll appeal is she's not convinced this should be part of her constitutional duties.

The appeal will be filed as early as next week.

247 people haven't paid their garbage bills this year the list is below.

Click HERE to see the list in a PDF file

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