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Governor signs Fulton tax rate freeze despite opposition
by Nicole Dow
May 08, 2013 11:17 AM | 2792 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 604 into law Monday, placing a cap on Fulton County’s property tax rate until January 1, 2015, despite opposition from county chairmen across metro Atlanta.

John Eaves, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, sent a letter to Deal last week asking him to veto the bill, which also requires future tax increases to have the vote of five commissioners instead of four.

Eaves said the county has not increased its tax rate since 1991 and the bill will adversely impact the county’s ability to generate revenue and the delivery of county services, especially the ability to fund Grady Hospital.

He added, “It will have an impact on our bond rating, which in effect makes it more costly for us to borrow money in the future.”

Eaves said Fitch Ratings cited H.B. 604 as the reason for downgrading the county’s credit rating.

County chairmen from Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth and Rockdale counties also signed Eaves’ letter in opposition to the bill.

“Even though this legislation is directed to Fulton County, they see that it’s an infringement on home rule — in other words, the ability for local governments to manage its own government,” Eaves said. “If this type of legislation is successful, it means that their county governments can be impacted in the future in the same way.”

District 47 state Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, authored H.B. 604 and said she was not surprised to see Fulton County commissioners oppose the bill.

“It’s consistent with their decision to spend much more per resident than comparable counties while delivering lesser services,” Jones said. “Several of the metro county chairs that support Fulton’s easy access to taxpayers’ wallets would be run out of town if they tried to tax and spend at Fulton’s extreme level.”

She explained, “Fulton spends 121 percent more per capita than the next largest county, Gwinnett, and 68 percent more than Cobb. That’s not even including Grady and MARTA in the equation.”

The reasoning behind her sponsoring the bill was that Fulton County has overtaxed and overspent for too long, she said.

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