Trustee Bill Hullander Speaks To The Association Of Mature American Citizens

Thursday, November 15, 2018 - by Jo Peckinpaugh
If you missed Tuesday’s meeting of the Association Of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) for Congressional District 3, you missed an entertaining and informative gathering with our featured speaker County Trustee Bill Hullander.

Were you aware that our county trustee's office is known as the most efficient in Tennessee?

Our present Hamilton County trustee was elected in 2010 and previously was a member of the County Commission for 12 years, Bill is also a current member of the Pachyderm Club.  He couched his comments around true stories of sometimes funny, sometimes serious issues he’s encountered since taking office.

Primarily, the Trustee's Office collects property taxes, business taxes (personalty), hotel/motel taxes, as well as defend the interest of the county in Bankruptcy Court.

Residential Assessment is 1/4 of the appraised value; Commercial assessment is 40 percent of appraised value; and the current tax rate is $2.76 per $100 of assessment.

The assessor appraises the properties, the County Commission sets the rate, and the trustee sends out the tax bills in September/October.
They are due by the end of February of the following year.

After two years, delinquent bills go to the clerk and masters office; more fees, interest and penalties are incurred; after another two years of non-payment, they are added to the list for the county tax sale in June; owners of affected properties are notified well in advance of this process.

For the first time, this past year’s tax sale of some 300 properties was online and was very successful.  Bill explained that any monies collected above the actual tax/penalties/fees owed are returned to the previous owner of the property; He also discussed the process of redemption, after the sale, of a property back to the owner.

And every Tuesday Bill Hullander defends the county’s interest in Bankruptcy Court.  May is the biggest month for bankruptcy filings, because June is when delinquent properties are up for sale.   Once bankruptcy is declared, the property cannot be sold.  However, it seems the only thing you cannot go bankrupt on is property tax and student loans.  

Out of the $295 million total levied this past year, approximately 95 percent is paid in the first year.  Bill then shared who were the top five taxpayers in Chattanooga….EPB, VW, CBL, TVA and McKee. He stipulated that companies coming into the county, even if they are exempted from property tax (by the commission’s PILOT program), must pay the school tax.

Since taking office, Bill has implemented big changes in the way the office is run.  The Trustee’s Office gets two percent% for collecting the taxes; that money is used for everything (employees, office equipment, etc).  With a mere 15 employees (including one full time attorney, which by itself has saved the county $100,000 plus per year over using contract attorneys) they have consistently returned unused funds back to the county, totaling $66 million over his eight-year tenure as trustee.

In addition, Bill Hullander has changed the way trustees in Tennessee actually collect the taxes…before, if you were a dollar short, nothing would be accepted. Now folks are allowed to make partial payments towards their tax bills. 

Surprisingly,  cash is often given in payment for taxes.  Previously, employees would have to carry cash in bags to the bank…that mental snapshot just won’t work in today’s environment. As a response, Bill arranged for Loomis’s SafePoint to come on board. This is an advanced cash management ecosystem that cuts costs and improves efficiency by streamlining cash-handling processes, using smart safe technology. A clerk can put cash into this machine, which checks for accuracy, then it is immediately credited to the county’s account at First Tenesseen Bank.  The cash is securely locked inside, to be picked up in armored Loomis vehicles for transport.

An appraisal of the entire county is $38 billion. That’s billion with a B, and that generates a revenue stream of $275 million with 155,000 real property parcels.

Approximately 42 percent of property taxes are paid through mortgage companies?  Once that mortgage is paid off, the trustee’s office has implemented ACH in order to help taxpayers meet their tax obligation.  ACH is a process by which a taxpayer may choose to have monthly withdrawals of prorated tax payments taken directly from their bank account.

Bill went on to explain about some of the challenges of collecting hotel/motel taxes.  For example, when a room in a home is rented out for less than 30 days, four percent hotel/motel tax is due to the county; if that room is in the city, another four percent tax is due to the city.

Bill Hullander contacted one of the largest companies which coordinate customers and owners, Airbnb.   He negotiated with the Airbnb office in California for taxes to be taken out of monies owed, upfront, for all Hamilton County properties operating under the Airbnb agreement, and they eventually complied.

Ninety0 properties were known to be liable for this tax; after the arrangement with Airbnb, we learned there are 600+ through Airbnb alone.  Airbnb finally agreed to send lump sum taxes owed from Hamilton County properties directly to the trustees office, and as a result, we’re getting almost $1 million more in revenue.

Other items discussed were the Tennessee Tax Relief Program, between the state of Tennessee and Hamilton County. If you are a 100 percent disabled (from war) vet or a citizen of 65 or + years old with a total income of less than $30,000 per year, you’re eligible for a tax break. And the tax free. This one turns out to be a complicated issue. It seems implementation of a tax freeze may require taxpayers —not included in the freeze— to pay higher taxes, in order to balance out total revenue revenue.  Needless to say, Bill Hullander is totally against it. 
 
Out of the 95 counties in Tennessee, he said 26 are participating in this program and all regret it.

The good news is Hamilton County is growing. Tax revenue since 2011 has increased dramatically…2011 was $233 million, 2016 was $249 million and 2018 was $275 million. 

To find out more about AMAC or to join the organization, visit www.amac.us.  Local chapter meetings are open to all conservatives.  To be notified of future meetings, contact Meredith Heinemeier at meredith.heinemeier@hush.com.

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