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Tax hike of 17 percent on horizon
by Noreen Cochran
June 10, 2014 04:10 PM | 1392 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A nearly $1 billion projected increase in Fulton County assessed property values – from $44.5 billion to $45.4 billion – may lead to a 17.45 percent jump in the millage rate, which is the rate per $1,000 in assessed value that property owners pay in county taxes.

According to a May 29 statement from county Finance Director Patrick O’Connor, “the Taxpayer Bill of Rights places additional requirements upon all levying entities which requires that if we do not roll the general maintenance and operations millage rate back for change in value due to reassessments, then we must calculate the percentage difference between the proposed millage rates and the rollback rates and advertise that difference as a tax increase and hold three public hearings.”

A rollback rate of 10.03 will produce $455 million for the general fund, from which the county pays its day-to-day maintenance and operations costs, which is about the same income as 2013’s $454 million under the 10.211 millage rate.

If the rate stayed at 10.211, the M&O income would be $464 million; with the increase, $535 million.

The proposed rate is 11.781, an increase of 1.57 mills or 17.45 percent, over the rollback rate, producing that $535 million in revenue.

“This millage rate increase is necessary to support the 2014 general fund budget as adopted by the board of commissioners,” O’Connor said about the $625 million budget approved in February, which is about 9 percent higher than 2013’s $572 million.

O’Connor included sample language for a public notice, with examples of the higher rates homeowners and commercial building landlords may expect to pay.

“The proposed tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $375,000 is approximately $125 and the proposed tax increase for a non-homesteaded property with a fair market value of $375,000 is approximately $235,” it read.

But the county will not be able to advertise this potential tax hike until after its June 18 meeting, based on two votes in last Wednesday’s session.

With three commissioners – Liz Haussmann, John Eaves and Tom Lowe – absent June 4, all votes required a unanimous consent by the four remaining elected officials to be enacted.

Motions with only three ayes fail, automatically bumping them to the next meeting, usually in two weeks.

Commissioner Robb Pitts voted against going forward with advertising the potential property tax increase during last week’s commission meeting.

Adding it back into the agenda for a second vote resulted in his abstention, giving the same effect of pushing the matter to June 18.

The memo, assuming a June 4 OK to advertise, gave a public hearing schedule of June 18 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and June 25 at 10 a.m.

With the clock ticking on a final vote during the commission’s July 16 meeting, the delay puts pressure on the schedule of public hearings required by law.

“We are squeezed time-wise with the digest being out and the tax commissioner being able to get his bills out on time,” said County Attorney David Wade. “It might necessitate having a special called meeting in the month of July.”

The bond fund and south Fulton tax district millage rates will remain unchanged at 0.270 and 12.469, respectively.

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