COVINGTON, Ga. — As his first year in office nears its end, Newton County Tax Commissioner Marcus Jordan is all smiles.
Since taking office in January, the longtime Newton County resident has stayed busy in making big changes for the office, but he said the experience has been a thrill.
“I’ve just been excited to be here in this position and be able to implement the changes that we have,” Jordan said, “and be able to work with our staff and all of us just growing and developing together.”
Jordan was elected tax commissioner in the Nov. 3, 2020, General Election after garnering 53% of the vote to unseat Dana Darby. Before stepping into the role of tax commissioner, Jordan had worked in the tax assessor’s office since 1999.
As his inaugural year comes to an end, Jordan said he was proud of the work he and his staff have been able to accomplish.
His crowning achievement, so far, was seeing the tax commissioner’s website be overhauled. In addition to a sleek redesign, the updated website, newtoncountytax.com, offers a plethora of information about the various services offered and conducted within the tax commissioner’s office. And, most importantly, Jordan said, it’s user-friendly.
In addition to the new website, Jordan was also happy to lead the transition to a new accounting software for the office called Georgia TCS, which is a Windows-based system. The previous system had been in use for at least the last 25 years, Jordan said. He said the county was just the second in the state to switch to the new software. Jordan said the new software would “enhance the online payment options and allow for future expansion of various county services.”
Another change for the tax commissioner’s office was the phasing in of new policies “as it relates to collections and procedures.” In making these changes, Jordan said his office had been able to make significant progress in collecting delinquent taxes.
“In the initial phase this year, we sent out letters to people with delinquent taxes, and of that, we’ve been able to recoup over $7 million,” Jordan said. “Now we’re getting ready to go into our second phase where we will aggressively pursue those people who still owe.”
On that note, Jordan said, there was about $2.5 million in uncollected taxes that would likely have to be written off.
“We’re going to have to address that and send that to the board of commissioners, because we’ve got to clear the books,” Jordan said. “We’re sitting here with, probably about 20 to 30 years of taxes that haven’t been collected, and we can’t collect because it’s not forcible collections and they fall outside the seven-year period.”
However, once the second phase begins, Jordan said his office would be able to collect up to another nearly $2 million in delinquent taxes.
“We’re definitely looking forward to doing that and cleaning that up,” he said. “Our sole purpose is to make things better for the community, and we definitely we want to make sure everyone is paying their fair share. That’s one thing we will do.”
Looking ahead to the final three years in his term, Jordan said he intends to focus on “revamping” homestead exemptions.
In Covington, where homestead expeditions have never been observed, Jordan said he has been working with city leaders to change that, starting as early as next year.
Standard homestead exemptions can typically save homeowners $300, on average, Jordan said. For homeowners age 65 and older, such exemptions can save up to $800, on average.
Jordan’s goal is to increase homestead exemptions countywide for residents’ benefit, but he said it would take working with the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education to make it happen.
“I have a vision of revamping homestead exemptions to increase them across the board,” he said. “But at the same time, other elected officials are going look at that and say, ‘Well where are we going to get this money from?’ So, that’s where we have to sit down and say, ‘Well maybe if we phase in these exemptions we’ll be able to increase these exemptions.’
“As you know, our values have went up,” Jordan continued. “We were fortunate this year when the county adopted a little less than a rollback rate to kind of offset some of that for the citizens. But I think going forward, I feel like our market is strong, and we need to look at ways of giving back to the citizens by way of homestead exemptions… We may not be able to do it all at once, but I think there’s a way to phase this in to where its beneficial to all parties.”
Jordan said anyone with questions could call his office at 770-784-2020 or stop by one of the two tax commissioner’s office locations:
• Newton County Administration Building, 1113 Usher St. NE, Suite 101 in Covington.
• Newton County Westside Location, 3612 Salem Road in Covington.
Both offices are open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Jordan said he looks forward to the next three years and hopes his leadership can help pave the way to a brighter future for Newton County.
“We’re just excited about being here and we’re going to do the best we can in these four years,” Jordan said. “And going forward, when we leave here, we want people to say, ‘Man, things really changed and changed for the better.’ That’s my goal.”