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County to combine tax offices

In six years and 10 months, or perhaps sooner, Chilton County will have only one elected official dealing with taxes rather than two.

On Nov. 4, a majority of voters decided to abolish the offices of Tax Collector and Tax Assessor and establish the office of Revenue Commissioner. The measure was approved 7,856 to 6,435.

The current terms of Tax Assessor and Tax Collector, held by Tom Powers and Tim Little, respectively, will not end until Sept. 30, 2009. Then, on Oct. 1, newly elected Tax Assessor Rex Cleckler and re-elected Tax Collector Tim Little each will begin a six-year term.

The terms begin with a new fiscal year, which allows business from the previous year to be closed out in a clean fashion.

The act requiring the consolidation of offices will not take full effect until Oct. 1, 2015, when the newly elected revenue commissioner will take office. He or she will be chosen during the 2014 General Election and will assume all the responsibilities of both tax assessor and collector.

Should either Cleckler or Little fail to finish his six-year term, however, the consolidation would take place at that time, meaning the official remaining in office would become revenue commissioner.

Supporters of the act say it will save money by eliminating the salary of one elected official. The salary of the revenue commissioner will be set as follows:

“The county revenue commissioner shall receive a salary of not less than the minimum salary provided by Section 40-6A-2, Code of Alabama 1975…The exact amount of the salary shall be set by resolution of the county commission prior to the county revenue commissioner taking office,” states the act.

The current minimum salary for a revenue commissioner is $47,500, but that could easily change, said County Attorney John Hollis Jackson.

“I’m sure it would wind up being changed before 2015,” he said, noting that the salary will likely exceed the minimum.

Those who opposed the act argued that the revenue commissioner could hire an assistant at a relatively high salary, but the act does not address an assistant at all.

“They would have to amend the act to do that,” Jackson explained.

As for the organization of the office, i.e., the structure of employees, that would be up to the commissioner, who would have a considerable amount of freedom in doing so.

As it stands, the tax assessor’s duties entail assessing, mapping, appraisals and personal property; while the tax collector is over collecting, tags and licensing.

“That’s going to be a big job,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to say who [the revenue commissioner] will be and what they will deem necessary to run the office.”

Of course, there is a budget to stay within, and the budgets have been tight historically. Yet it takes a delicate balance of responsibility to get the job done.

Jackson said he is fascinated with the process of documents as they journey through county offices, from probate to assessor to collector.

“It’s kind of like making a hamburger,” he said. “You put all these ingredients into it, and by the time you get through, you’ve got a good looking hamburger sandwich.”

—Scott Mims can be reached at scott.mims@clantonadvertiser.com.