Atlanta school board chairman responds to property tax questions, revises disclosure form

3:31 p.m Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 Education
Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Atlanta Board of Education chairman Courtney English, who is running for Atlanta City Council, says he misspoke during a candidate forum last month when he claimed he bought his family home in Atlanta's Oakland City neighborhood. The home is owned by his aunt, he said. Tax records show the property  has a senior tax exemption. File photo by BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

An Atlanta city council candidate who currently serves as the Atlanta Board of Education chairman rebutted allegations he shortchanged school property taxes and said he “misspoke” when he told an audience at an election forum that he purchased the Oakland City house where he grew up. 

Questions surrounding the Merrill Avenue house where Courtney English lives prompted him to submit an amended financial disclosure statement last week that indicates he does not own the property. He also retracted a comment he made at a voter event in early September when he said: “I bought my childhood home when my parents passed away.” 

English said he “misspoke” at that candidate forum while discussing his family’s property. 

“I didn’t buy the house,” he said. “I essentially took up a lot of the bills. They were about to lose the house. I kind of leaned in.” 

On the financial disclosure statement he submitted last year, English checked the box indicating he had “ownership interests” in property valued at more than $5,000. He said he did so in an attempt to be “transparent” because he had paid more than that amount toward various household bills, repairs, and renovations. 

After questions began swirling in the run-up to the Nov. 7 election, English filed an amended disclosure statement, an annual report required of elected officials and candidates. On the updated form, he no longer checked the property ownership box. He said he changed his response and submitted a new form after speaking to an attorney. 

“There’s a very specific term for ownership interest, and it didn’t apply,” he said. 

Fulton County records show the house has been co-owned for the last decade by English’s late mother, Glories, and his 74-year-old aunt Joyce English. English said he moved back home to care for his ailing mother before her death in 2012 and continues to live in the house with his aunt. 

The property ownership question became an election issue after an anonymous website alleged English, who is 32, lied about either owning the property or about qualifying for a senior tax exemption claimed on the property’s tax records. 

The Fulton County Assessors Office estimates the homeowner will owe an estimated 17 cents in Atlanta school bond taxes for the current tax year. 

English said his aunt, who qualifies for the exemption, lives with him in the house she owns. 

“Nobody is skirting the law,” he said. 

English blamed the attacks on his opponent in the city council Post 1 at-large race, incumbent Michael Julian Bond. 

Bond said he’s not “in any way” involved with the website attacking English on the property issue. 

Their race has been heated. 

During the same candidate forum in which English said he bought the family house, the moderator separated the two candidates after Bond appeared to lean in to English.

Things got heated at a recent candidate forum between Michael Julian Bond, the city council post 1 incumbent and his challenger, Courtney English. (Footage via Georgia STAND-UP’s Facebook Live.)
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