Responses for George Wingo Tax Commissioner

Tue, 07/01/2008 - 5:26pm
By: George Wingo

Question 1
1. What is the biggest priority in the next few years for the office of tax commissioner to address?
Implementing state of the art computer software and internet capabilities is the number one challenge for tax commissioners in the future. New and better products are coming to market daily, products which can make the functions of a tax office easier, quicker and more citizen friendly. At the same time, these products will save thousands of dollars in man hours which will reduce the tax burden to property owners in Fayette County. I and the Clerk of Superior Court have been working together for several months to secure software for electronically filing liens, fi fas, etc, which currently are done manually, requiring hundreds of hours of manpower. We have, in fact, already met with one vendor that is currently developing such software.
Question 2
2. Why should anybody care who gets elected as tax commissioner?
The office of Tax Commissioner in the State of Georgia is a crucial elective office. It serves several important purposes, collecting taxes and processing homestead applications being the two most citizens know of best. Motor vehicle registrations throughout the state are performed and maintained by 159 tax offices, accounting for over 135,000 records in Fayette County alone, over 8 million statewide. There are other services and functions as well.
The tax office is usually the initial point of contact for all people moving to Fayette County, and for the majority, the only county office they do business with on a continuing basis. The tax commissioner is charged by state law to accept all applications for homestead and other exemptions.
The tax commissioner, as an elected official, is the sole advocate citizens have to address specific issues regarding their individual tax problems. Property value appeals and abatement requests can be initiated in the tax office; the board of tax assessors has final authority to rule on either.Issues about motor vehicles titles and registrations are all handled in the tax commissioner’s office.
The ability to administrate the office of tax commissioner should be extremely important to the informed voter. Education, experience and leadership qualities are foremost. Municipalities, school boards and the county board of commissioners must have confidence in the abilities of the tax commissioner as well. Because the operation of the tax commissioner’s office is narrowly controlled by state law, the public should expect the person they elect to possess all of the requisites to perform at the highest possible level.
3. What makes you a better public servant than your opponent?
My 15 plus years as tax commissioner and my years in public accounting demonstrate my superior qualifications to hold the office of tax commissioner. I have without question led the Fayette County tax office to the point of being acclaimed the best tax office in the metro Atlanta area, possibly the best in the state. Leadership is accomplished by example, and I and my staff are proud to provide the friendliest and most efficient service possible.
My having served as chairman of the legislative committee of the Georgia Association of Tax Officials has provided an opportunity to work with representatives, senators and governors to improve the functions within the tax offices and delivery of services to the citizens. In recognition of my work in this area, I was honored in 2004 by being chosen TAX COMMISSIONER of the year by 158 colleagues. The time I have spent working in this area has provided an opportunity to be privy to legislation that might adversely impact citizens of Fayette County and local governing authorities. HR900, Speaker Glenn Richardson’s GREAT TAX, plan is just such legislation. I was the first in Fayette County to alert everyone to the dangers of this legislation.
4. What will you do as tax commissioner that you think your opponent won’t or can’t do?
I will continue to work to improve the operations of the tax office and to streamline as many of these functions as possible. Currently Georgia Law requires that applications for all homestead exemptions be made in person at the tax commissioner’s office, sworn in the presence of the tax commissioner or a staff member. I will be working to change the law so that these applications can be done on-line via the internet with independent verification of pertinent data. My staff and I have always made senior exemptions a top priority. For the last several years, we have mailed notices to persons reaching age 64, 65 and 66, apprising them to available benefits. These services will be enhanced and improved when possible.
5. What should the tax commissioner do or change to make the time spent in line a less uncomfortable experience for taxpayers?
Cal, let’s review things that have been done. Our tag lines have been reduced to practically nothing with innovations I have made already. In 1995 and 1996 I worked on several committees to push for a transition to a year round tag and ad valorem tax system. In 1997 that became a reality. In 2000 we implemented electronic transmission of insurance coverage to the motor vehicle data base by insurers, eliminating the need to provide evidence of insurance for the majority of registrations. It’s still a good idea to keep proof of insurance in your automobiles for law enforcement purposes.
A year ago we implemented on-line internet renewal of motor vehicle registrations and payment of property taxes, a great convenience for taxpayers. Many are already saving time and effort by using these methods of payment. We urge people to use on-line or mail whenever possible.
We provide seating in both the tag area and property tax areas for seniors or disabled persons, and give these people personalized service when necessary. I personally go to taxpayer homes when it is necessary to complete homestead applications for those not able to come into the tax office.
Our average wait in the tag lines is now less than 7 minutes. From 8 AM to 10 AM, and much of the afternoon, the majority of taxpayers are able to walk directly to a window and complete their transactions. We urge people to come to the tax office when traffic is likely to be lightest. We remain open late on Tuesdays to accommodate citizens who find it difficult to come to the office without missing work or for other reasons.
Two years ago we began issuing the hanging placards for temporary disabilities. Persons can call our tag office any time to ask that the forms be mailed to them, to be completed by their family physician and returned to our office.
There may be opportunities in the future to make tax office visits easier and quicker, and we will be on top of those opportunities.

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Submitted by Take back Fayette on Thu, 07/17/2008 - 8:56pm.

they are more efficient than any tax office i have ever dealt with. I had to respond to my yearly "birthday card" from Mr. Wingo last month. I will say this, they also have great people skills and know how to treat the public. In my 4 years worth of visits with Fulton co, i have never received that. I Have been in Fayette county for 14 years now and have always been greeted with a smile and prompt service every year, especially with Mr Renfroe. He has helped me with issues on several occasions. Although I did not get waited on by Mr Renfroe this year, I was waited on by a younger gentlemen who coulnd't have been no older than thirty. Let me say he acquainted me with just the same prompt service, sense of urgency and smile the same way Mr Renfroe and the rest of the office always has. Internet nor Fulton Co.will give you that. So I say keep doing what your doing Mr Wingo and Staff. I for one think your doing a fantastic job!!!!

Submitted by girlpower on Tue, 07/01/2008 - 5:49pm.

I'm intrigued by the answer to question #1. I am quite sure the tag office does not have internet capability. I asked if some information could be emailed from my insurance company and was told they were not allowed to have internet access. And question #5. Mr. Wingo makes it sound as though he is personally responsible for tag renewals on birthdays and automatic insurance transmissions. Let's not forget, this was state mandated, not wingo mandated.

Submitted by bluemoon on Mon, 07/07/2008 - 10:56pm.

The tag office doesn't have internet? I guess they need it to surf the net in between customers. Mark a "W" in the Wingo column for this one.

Submitted by girlpower on Mon, 07/14/2008 - 2:00pm.

For you ignorant people who think that internet access would not make the tag offices's job easier, listen up.
Internet access has the state of Georgia website where they can access all the different forms and every bit of information about policies and procedures, instead of having new handouts given to them everyday. Also, they can go online and verify insurance information as well, so just because you may use the internet for "surfing," doesn't mean everybody will!

Submitted by sp4littlejohn on Wed, 07/16/2008 - 10:40am.

Internet? Well here we are.
Seven years ago my wife was recovering from the effects of lung cancer and the subsequent removal of one of her lungs. We owned a business here in Fayette County at the time that took up all of our time plus. Six years and eight months ago I woke up in a hospital bed with a little girl at the foot of the bed who said, "Grandpa, you don't know me do you?" I had no idea who that little girl was. I had spent the prior three and a half months in a coma, the effects of untreated ensephalitis. Two weeks later that woman that had a very difficult time breathing took me to a place she called home and reintroduced me to my family. A short while later she handed me mail that I hadn't read for over three months and one of the letters was from the State of Georgia Sales Tax Division. That womans store was being audited and she said that it was my store too.
The next day I looked in the phone book and found that there was a "Tax Commisioner" in Fayette County.
Not any more than two hours later I was sitting in that Tax Commisioners office showing him that letter from the state and he immediately went to a file cabinet in his office, got some papers and came back to his desk. After saying to me "no problem" that tax payer paid bureaucrat sat down at his desk and proceeded to do both my State of Georgia Form ST-5 forms but also reduced the property tax burden that I had on my home here if Fayette County since I was placed on SSI while in the hospital. Here was the first politician that I have ever known that took the phrase "For the people" to heart and proved it.
BTW, the State of Georgia was more than happy with the filings of five months worth of delinquent taxes and charged no penalties.
Thank you George Wingo.

Submitted by girlpower on Thu, 07/17/2008 - 6:55pm.

Although I am truly sorry for the things you have dealt with in your personal life, I fail to see what that has to do with the point I was trying to make. I was specifically referring to the tag office. I know most people don't realize that mr. wingo is over both offices. Alot of people just associate him with property tax. In my dealings with that office, they have many more resources available to them than the tag office. You would think mr. wingo would want as many available resources for his employees as possible, so that they can better serve the citizens of this county. But I guess someone of that generation doesn't like change and wants to continue to run things like MAYBERRY!!

Submitted by Abales on Fri, 07/18/2008 - 7:27am.

It's obvious to anyone that has ever been in Mr. Wingo's office that neither girlpower, the natural or Linda Wells have been there.

Both the staff and George Wingo are always helpful, friendly and professional. They go out of their way to assist everyone.

Submitted by girlpower on Fri, 07/18/2008 - 2:51pm.

Do you really think I would write these things if I thought they were untrue? Believe what you want, but there are alot of people who know what I'm talking about. Again, as far as his staff goes, that is not the issue. No one has ever criticized them, certainly not me. They do an excellent job, but my point is if there are resources that would help them more, why not make them accessible? The bottom line is, there are still lines and there are certain days of the week that are busier than others and there are certain times of day that are busier than others. According to mr. wingo, he is committed to the best possible customer service, but yet he hasn't taken the necessary steps to provide his employees with additional tools, such as internet access, which would help them provide that "step above" customer service. Please don't think I would ever write in just to be ignorant. I am very aware of how both offices operate under his direction!!!!!!!

Submitted by MYTMITE on Thu, 07/17/2008 - 7:39pm.

With the tag and tax offices in the many years I have dealt with them. The people are always pleasant, take their time with you, answer all questions. I have had these experiences in person or on the phone. What more can we ask for? I, myself, would prefer Mayberry over downtown Atlanta or Miami or New York where you are treated rudely and like a number. Let's not lose the human touch completely. There is too much automation as it is!

Submitted by Bonkers on Fri, 07/18/2008 - 4:09am.

Why does anyone ever go there?
I have never been there in person!
I guess some still pay their electric bill in cash at their office.

Submitted by glfrgurl on Fri, 07/18/2008 - 8:40am.

I dont know all they do but I've been there to pick up specialty tags,
get a temporary tag, get a temporary handicap tag, and one year I even waited till the day before my birthday to get my tag. Maybe someone can enlighten Bonkers to what else they do. Glad you have no tag issues Bonkers but they're there for those of us who do.

Submitted by glfrgurl on Thu, 07/17/2008 - 10:05pm.

The personnel are very cordial and knowledgeable and although the experience of paying taxes has never been up there on my list of fun things to do I have no complaints on the customer service they offer. If you happen to go to one of our border counties tax office
you'll find less staff to wait on you.

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