While three public hearings are set – July 9 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and July 16 at 10 a.m. – public speakers already sounded off for and against the hike.
Michael Fitzgerald of north Fulton referred to the new cities incorporated since 2005 and the new commission seats to be filled in January.
“This commission has done little to adjust to the new Fulton County. Your responsibilities are diminished and the reserves are starved; admit it, you’d rather not do the heavy lifting of cutting costs but you turn to the poor burdened taxpayers to dig you out of your dilemma,” he said. “Soon, very soon, there’s going to be a fresh, new set of ideas on the commission. Face the fact that you’re going to have to listen to Fulton County residents you’ve been able to previously ignore.”
However, Phil Lunney of Roswell said the concept of home rule triumphed over the Georgia General Assembly’s previous effort to subject tax increases to a super-majority vote.
“I support this board’s efforts. If they want to raise taxes, that’s their concern,” he said. “It is not the concern of the Republican-controlled state Legislature to edict our county how to raise taxes. They complain when the federal government does it to them, but think it’s fine when local doesn’t concern them.”
Arts funding, in the crosshairs last year during budget talks, got support from several speakers.
Jessyca Holland, executive director of county-supported arts business incubator C4 Atlanta, said she wanted the county to maintain its $1.5 million arts budget.
“Arts and culture are very important to the physical, mental and spiritual health of a community,” she said.
Center for Puppetry Arts board member Judy Garland said art is important economically, as well.
“It brings jobs, new companies and conventions to Atlanta,” she said.
In other business, MARTA General Manager Keith Parker reported the agency’s newly adopted budget allocates $400 million for operations and $500 million for capital improvements.
Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards suggested revisiting a plan for a train station on Fulton Industrial Boulevard, given the area’s economic revival.
“If we’re going to be an employment center, it would be a good thing to take a look at it,” he said.
In other votes, the board split 3-3 on denying Michael Hightower’s application for a Cascade Road residential rezoning, automatically bumping it to the July 16 meeting.
Also bumped was a county auditor vote, changing an existing position from reporting to the county manager to reporting to the board.