More help coming to Jefferson County tax collectors office

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Jefferson County Commission has decided to hire more people to speed up processing of tax collections in the Jefferson County Tax Collector's office.

The office is behind in opening property tax bills because of a hiring freeze last year.

"We have 350,000 accounts to collect $575 million," said Jefferson County Tax Collector J.T. Smallwood. "To accomplish that with a handful is really difficulty."

After learning of the problem last week, the Jefferson County Commission announced plans to spend up to $120,000 to hire three workers to help with tax collections.

"We have the money to increase their staff, to reduce this problem," said Bettye Fine Collins, Jefferson Co. Commission President, on Wednesday.

Collins said the money will come from a small increase in tax collections so far this year and from the money from the settlement with J.P. Morgan which is supposed to help with displaced workers.

Smallwood says this will be a big help.

"It will put the necessary resources back into our office, to bring in those much needed funds," Smallwood said.

There is a move in the state legislature to allow counties to contract with a private company to assist in property tax collections.

"It does give the right to help identify taxes that should be paid that aren't right now," Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, said.

While Smallwood welcomes any help for his office, the tax collector believes paying for services the county should be be performing will only reduce the amount of cash collected by the county.

"It would basically double the fees for county would have to pay to collect this tax," Smallwood said. "The private enterprise would win but the public would lose."