Fulton County sets tax rate, expects lower-than-normal collections

After Fulton County commissioners decided earlier this year to largely freeze property values at 2016 levels following residents’ complaints about huge increases, they voted Wednesday to lower the tax rate, as well.

The new tax rate, 10.38 mills for the county’s general fund, is down 0.7 percent from last year.

State law requires that counties reduce their tax rates to account for rising property values, or advertise a tax increase. Some Fulton County commissioners have said in the past they would like to keep reducing the tax rate, which was raised in 2014. The new rate is considered revenue neutral, though Fulton’s tax base has increased, the result of new construction.

Residents with a $250,000 house and a standard homestead exemption would save about $5 on their tax bill for the year.

In addition to the general fund rate, residents will pay .25 mills for library bonds. Residents in the new city of South Fulton will pay the county an additional 4.43 mills to compensate Fulton County for providing services for the four months before the city incorporated.

And property owners in the last unincorporated part of the county, the Fulton County Industrial District, will pay a tax rate of 12.16 mills to cover the cost of police, fire and other municipal services for the entire year. They will also pay the South Fulton portion, 4.43 mills, because they were part of that area before the city was formed.

Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris said costs to provide municipal services to the Fulton Industrial area had risen with South Fulton’s formation.

“I understand it’s a smaller area,” Morris said. “They don’t have the economies of scale with a smaller area.”

Commissioners agreed to the tax rates unanimously, with Commissioner Liz Hausmann voting via phone. The seven-member board is down to five members, but still needed four votes for the tax rate to pass. The commission meeting was delayed by nearly an hour Wednesday, until Commissioner Emma Darnell arrived, because without her, the county did not have a quorum to start its meeting.

The county tax rates are just one part of the bill residents will see. Cities and school districts are also setting their tax rates.

Normally, tax bills are sent in August, and money is collected in October. This year, Fulton leaders hope to have the bills in the mail by mid-October, with money due by mid-December.

The bills are delayed because Fulton sent a second round of assessments — in most cases, at the same level they were last year — after residents were shocked to find huge increases in their property values. Fulton County for years had been neglecting assessments that would have kept up with rising values.

Because the tax bills are delayed, Fulton Chief Financial Officer Sharon Whitmore said she expects collections to be lower than usual — 90 percent, as opposed to 96 percent. That translates into about $22 million less in the county coffers at year-end than was originally anticipated.

“Ninety percent, I believe, is an aggressive collection percentage,” Whitmore said.

The county can still collect the tax money into 2018, applying it to 2017’s expenses. But it complicates a process that has already had a wrench thrown in it. Whitmore said departments were under-spending their budgets, so the county probably won’t have to cut staff or programs, even with the delayed revenue.

Fulton had a tight timeline to set its tax rate and must send bills soon: it has to pay back a $200 million loan by Dec. 29, and only has $146 million in reserves, not enough to cover the bill. The expected collections for the county’s general fund should be between $430 million and $435 million, Whitmore said.


The AJC's Arielle Kass keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Fulton County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Fulton politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

In other Fulton news:

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Milton to offer vehicles in online auction
Milton to offer vehicles in online auction

The city of Milton is putting three vehicles out for bid in an online auction that will run for two weeks. Bidding on a 2007 Ford Crown Victoria, 2011 Ford Fusion and 2013 Ford Taurus starts at 9 a.m. Feb. 26 at www.govdeals.com, officials said. The auction ends at 3 p.m. March 12. Full property descriptions as well as bidding process details will...
8-year-old boy robbed at gunpoint, New Orleans police say
8-year-old boy robbed at gunpoint, New Orleans police say

Authorities are investigating after an 8-year-old boy told New Orleans police he was robbed at gunpoint Saturday, according to multiple reports. The boy told police he was approached by a man who demanded his keys, NOLA.com reported. The man pulled out a gun after the boy refused, according to the news site. “Give me the keys or I will kill...
Sandy Springs OKs private school in church
Sandy Springs OKs private school in church

The Sandy Springs City Council has approved a conditional use permit allowing a private school for children in kindergarten through third grade to operate out of Dunwoody Community Church. Dunwoody Christian School would make use of four classrooms at the church, 2250 Dunwoody Club Drive, according to school organizer Bob Baima. Each classroom could...
Cherokee gets check for parks storm damage
Cherokee gets check for parks storm damage

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners has approved a $42,700 budget amendment to account for an insurance payment for storm-related damage to ball fields of the Cherokee Recreation & Parks Agency. Significant damage was reported to foul ball nets and batting cages due to heavy snowfall Dec. 8-9, according to a staff report to commissioners. OneBeacon...
Funds granted for Fayette pets
Funds granted for Fayette pets

The Fayette Humane Society has received a one-year grant of $3,915 from the Elinor LaFevre DuBois Fund through the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. The nonprofit group plans to use the money to subsidize veterinary care for approximately 150 homeless pets. Because the Fayette County Animal Shelter does not accept owner-surrendered animals...
More Stories