Thursday's Editorial

Don't turn away taxpaying public

One of the pleasures of being an American is waking up, heading down to some government agency, and standing in line for as long as possible to give said agency money.

This is even more exciting when a new tax or computer program is being implemented. Top it off with little to no training, and bugs in new systems, and that root canal you delayed starts to look pretty good.

The latest problem is the new Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT), which changes taxes from a sales and yearly tax to a one-time title tax that began on March 1. Adding confusion is the “opt-in” period for any vehicle purchased between January 2012 and Feb. 28, 2013 — owners can stay with the old system or go with the new one.

Such is the case lately with the Coweta County Tag Office, which has seen its share of hiccups, delayed lines and frustrations on the part of employees and customers. It became so bad the tag office has put up signs saying it may cut off customers at 4 p.m., even though previously anyone in line up to 5 p.m. would be seen.

This is not how to run a business or a local government. Who turns away paying customers? But that happened on at least one occasion when several taxpayers, who said they already had waited in line for about 30 minutes, were told to come back another day.

Coweta County Tax Commissioner Tommy Ferrell earlier announced lines would be cut off because his staff does not receive overtime pay or comp time. Taxpayers who were cut off due to the lines were told to take it up with their state legislators, according to a story we wrote earlier this month. We suggest local taxpayers take it up with the Coweta County Board of Commissioners and Ferrell.

The tag office was able to hire a part-time employee to help, and county employees from other departments are pitching in as well. Good moves. But everyone knew this was going to be a problem and we should have been better prepared. There is no excuse for turning away a taxpayer, who probably has taken time off from work, simply because the county won’t pay overtime. While we are mindful of how tax dollars are spent, this is an exception. If a customer is in line before 5 p.m., they should be let in to pay the county taxes due. Ferrell needs to ask for overtime pay or comp time, and the commissioners need to approve it.

Since the new law went into effect, things have gotten better, at least to some we have talked to. One of our staff recently went down and had 18 people in front of him. Within 20 minutes, he was at the window, and in another five minutes, done. None of us like waiting in lines, but considering the massive changes taking place, that’s not bad.

The tag office should be commended for putting up a flat screen with information about the new law and when people need to come in. Ferrell said he’s also going to add another temp, another positive move. There’s also a sign up notifying people lines may be cut off earlier, another good move, but again, we disagree with cutting off customers.

Finally, to the employees in the tag office who are dealing with state printers that don’t work, little prior training and frustrated customers, thank you for your patience, humor and dedication in the midst of all this.



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