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City Council eyes property values during budget talks
by Bobby Tedder
btedder@neighbornewspapers.com
May 15, 2013 09:40 AM | 801 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sandy Springs officials continue to navigate their way through successive rounds of fiscal 2014 budget talks.

Council members, presented with the new tax digest at last week’s workshop session, expressed their concerns about the volume of property value appeals filed by residents — several thousand to date.

“I think [tax authorities] are starting to get a handle on it. … The backlog is not as large as it had been,” said District 2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries.

Credit residents’ increased utilization of the online appeals method for that, she added.

Due to slow growth in the housing market, property taxes are anticipated to be lower than the current fiscal year’s collections. The soon-to-be expiring budget tops $178 million.

Based on operating budget assumptions, the city’s overall decline in revenues — property tax and franchise fees — amounts to nearly $3 million.

The news does not appear to be all bad.

Although there are still a high number of appeals pending resolution, overall property values are stabilizing, Fulton County’s chief tax appraiser, David Fitzgibbon, told council members at last week’s workshop.

“That’s good news,” said Sandy Springs City Manager John McDonough. “We will remain in close contact with the [tax] assessor’s office and await the preliminary digest figures which we will use to refine our estimates.”

While solvency is not at issue for the city, the ratio of available funds to existing, proposed and pending responsibilities is not quite ideal.

Continued funding for the city center Phase I initiative has been given priority for fiscal 2014.

“We still have quite a bit of money to put back into the city in regards to infrastructure and capital improvements,” said Fries. “We’re [allocating] $13.5 million towards the downtown project. … When you do that, you don’t have quite as much to spend on other projects.”

Road maintenance is among the items high up enough on the city’s to-do list to avoid that fate. Officials plan to dedicate $3 million toward paving projects.

“There are roads that you can resurface; then there are roads that are so bad they have to be rebuilt,” said Fries. “It’s high priority for us to keep our roads in good condition — ensure that those just in need of resurfacing don’t fall into the other category.”

Officials anticipate holding a final hearing and adopting the city’s fiscal 2014 budget June 18.
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