‘Jury still out’ on collections, Seibert says
Chairman responds to criticism from Athens city officials
By Holly Hollman
ATHENS — Limestone County Commission Chairman David Seibert said “the jury is still out on the cost” of a controversial tax collection fee.
On Monday, Athens city leaders criticized the commission and local legislative delegation for quietly getting a bill passed that charges entities a pro rata share for the county collecting and disbursing property tax revenue.
Mayor Dan Williams said the city, hospital and city and county school boards will have to pay the county between $45,000 and $140,000.
That’s money none of the entities budgeted, he said, because none of knew about the bill.
The bill, signed into law in April, was advertised as required, but officials of the entities that must ante up apparently didn’t notice or realize it pertained to them.
Seibert said the pro rata share will change each year. He said when there is a surplus in the budget to cover the cost of collecting property tax, each entity’s share will be less.
“Any surplus money will be put into a fund to offset the cost,” Seibert said. “The City of Athens charges us to collect garbage fees outside the city limits and to collect the electric use fee, and we never complained about that or said it was excessive.”
The city collects those fees for the county so that customers receive one monthly bill from Athens Utilities.
“People seem to be missing the fact that Decatur, Huntsville and Madison are going to have to pay this too,” Seibert said. “Why should the county collect their taxes for them at a cost to us?”
Decatur, Huntsville and Madison will have to pay because they have annexed portions of Limestone County, and Limestone’s revenue commissioner’s office collects property taxes in those areas and has to determine how much of that to send to those cities.
Seibert said despite accusations of violating the state’s open meetings law, he said “no law was broken.”
The commission did not discuss the bill in a meeting, Seibert said, because the issue did not require commission action. He said he did not deliberate with commissioners outside a meeting, which the opening meetings law prohibits.
“I just informed them I was going to ask Carter and Butler to support it,” Seibert said, referring to former Rep. Tommy Carter, D-Elkmont, and Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison.
Carter said the city should “keep up with what is going on.”
Butler said the bill was advertised and no one notified him of any concerns.
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