Checks from a $17.5 million class action settlement with Glynn County residents over overpaid property taxes should be in the mail before the year ends after delays resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Those checks would have been sent around July if the pandemic had not shut down nearly all court functions, said Jay Roberts, a St. Simons Island attorney who represented the residents.

Mid-October to November is a safe bet, he said, unless someone objects to a class member being included in the settlement. An objection means another 75 days to investigate.

“I doubt there will be any (objections),” Roberts said.

A preliminary list of class members sits at 12,415. Roberts’ law firm, Roberts Tate, got $7.5 million from the settlement, leaving $10 million for the class members. A list of individual refunds is expected by the end of July, Roberts said.

Another 75 days after that checks will be mailed to entitled residents or former residents, unless an objection is made to one of the parties receiving a refund.

Anyone who received the homestead exemption between 2010 and 2018 could be eligible, the deadline to file is 45 days after the list of individual refunds is released.

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The lawsuit came about from the discovery that the Glynn County Tax Commissioner — which at the time was Florence Dees — was not correctly calculating some residents’ Scarlett Williams homestead exemptions.

The tax commissioner did not back down when it was brought to their attention, and the matter went to court in three lawsuits filed in 2012, 2013 and 2014. They were combined into a class action lawsuit as the extend of the overcharged taxes was uncovered.

A visiting superior court judge sided with the county, but the Georgia Court of Appeals overturned the decision. The Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving the appeals’ court decision as final.

As far as Roberts is concerned, his lead role in the case is over.

“We litigated on whether they were doing it wrong,” Robert said. “They were, and we won that part. We also litigated to set up a process to repay the people and we did.”

Once the matter was settled, the court appointed an administrator and special master to oversee refund calculations and disbursement.

Once the administrator, Larry Griggers of Lyons, finishes the refund calculations, Roberts said the special master is tasked with adjudicating any objections.

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