Fulton County tax bills may not be mailed until late October

5:15 p.m Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 Local
Former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves speaks as Dwight Robinson (left), chef appraiser, stands before Fulton County residents to discuss Property Tax Assessments. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM AJC FILE PHOTO

Fulton County tax bills, which are usually due to be paid this month, still haven’t gone out to residents.

Sharon Whitmore, Fulton’s chief financial officer, said she hopes the bills will be sent by Oct. 30. Atlanta residents will have to pay their bills within 45 days of the date they are mailed, while residents in the rest of Fulton County have 60 days.

If the bills are sent by the end of the month, the county still will be able to collect enough money this year to cover its obligations, Whitmore said.

“It’s tighter than I would have liked,” she said. “As long as the bills go out in the month of October, we will be fine.”

The county’s digest was forwarded to the state Department of Revenue Friday afternoon, Fulton County spokesperson Jessica Corbitt said. The state needs to approve the county’s tax digest before the bills can be mailed.

Whitmore said it usually takes the state only a few days to review and approve the county’s numbers. A spokesperson for the Department of Revenue did not respond to requests for comment about how long they might take to approve the county’s digest.

Tax bills are delayed this year because county commissioners in June decided to freeze most residents’ property assessments at 2016 levels.

Assessments jumped dramatically this year, after the county tax assessor failed to keep up with rising values. Nearly a quarter of the 318,000 residential parcels in Fulton had assessments that were up 50 percent or more; half were up by at least 20 percent. Residents, shocked by the increases, called on county leaders to offer some relief.

But in freezing assessments, county commissioners reset the process for collecting taxes in the county. Notices of assessment had to be recalculated and sent again. Governments had to set their tax rates, and appeals had to be heard.

If there is any more delay, the county could be late paying back a $200 million loan it took to cover the gap before tax money comes in. At the end of July, the county had $146 million in reserves, not enough to cover the bill.

Whitmore said she is “always looking at alternatives” in case there is further delay.

“We’re going to have a busy holiday season, trying to get tax collections in,” she said.

This is the second year in a row that tax bills were delayed. Last year, the county’s tax bills went out in September — two months later than expected — because of an error calculating property tax exemptions.

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