Category Archives: Ernest Moosa

It’s Not Your Assessments That Will Increase Your Property Tax Bills…

It’s  entertaining watching politicians working overtime to protect us by focusing on (Pick One):

A)  Rising Property Valuations

OR

B)   Making sure they start the Property Tax discussions with the Roll-Back Millage Rate

Which do you feel is the most critical part of this upcoming issue regarding YOUR property taxes?


There has been nothing but finger-pointing over the Fulton County Property Tax debacle.  And rest assured it will get worse before it gets resolved.

It’s NOT the Tax Assessors that will raise your property taxes.    The property values of everyone in Johns Creek could rise by 300%.  Your taxes could stay approximately the same.

As a Johns Creek property owner, it’s these three government bodies that will decide to raise your property taxes or not, and NOT the Tax Assessor.  They are:

Your Fulton County Commissioners (Seven Members)

Your Fulton County School Board(Seven Members)

Your Johns Creek City Council(Seven Members)

A Development Authority for Johns Creek? Just Say No

Amazon is presently inviting US cities to outbid each other in a contest to host its “second headquarters”, waving the promise of 50,000 jobs and $5bn of investment in front of the winning applicant. Maryland offered $5bn of tax incentives – dollar for dollar the same as the pledged investment – for the company to opt for Montgomery County, while California offered between $300m and $1bn of breaks. New Jersey even promised $7bn of tax incentives – $2bn more than Amazon’s maximum investment. Whichever city wins, it seems likely that tax will influence its decision-making: the firm’s published criteria for bidders cites “a stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure” as a high priority.

The paragraph above shows you the end result of governments pursuing growth at any price. Cities attempt to outbid each other in an effort to secure a business that they want located in their city limits.

We’ve seen taxpayers on the hook for financing professional sports stadiums for the very same reasons: the promises of the positive economic impact.

Presently, the City  Johns Creek is discussing whether they should create a Development Authority.  It’s purpose would be to offer property tax abatements, financing and other incentives to locate here in Johns Creek.

Before we go further let me ask you this question,   “What was your incentive to locate to Johns Creek?”  Did you need property tax abatements, better financing options, or other offers to help you make the decision to locate here?

In past conversations regarding the Central Business District, I have consistently taken the stand that the private sector is the is best suited for determining what will be built on commercial properties. This would also include the scale for such buildings.

The decisions for the development of commercial properties should be left to the private sector.  Based upon their analysis on what their profitability will be given the market, their location, and the cost of their funds, they must decide whether or not they take the risk and start or relocate a business.

The proposed Development Authority, however, changes that equation.

A Development Authority can lead to a lower cost of funds for a business.  And while it’s hard for me to believe that any viable business could not get the funds they needed to open or relocate over the last 5-10 years with interest rates at artificially low levels, there are some on our City Council that want to work to get those businesses even lower rates.  Don’t you wish they were doing the same to get you lower rates on your home mortgage?

A Development Authority would offer tax abatements on said properties for ten years.  This abatement applies to local, county, and school taxes.  The first year the property taxes will be 50% of the appraised value.  The 2nd year it will be 55%.  This will continue through year ten.

We are told that this is never a loss in revenue because the new value of the property will generate more property tax revenue at 50% of the new value than it did at the old undeveloped value.

They cite this reason for treating new businesses with a cut in taxes, whereas currently established, loyal businesses would have more competition and not benefit from the tax break.

And here is what they are NOT telling you.  Our property tax valuations in Johns Creek, specifically commercial properties are so out of whack that they make no rational sense.   There’s a well discussed campus in Tech Park which is used as an example of how valuable it is to use a Development Authority to retain them. And maybe that has some merit.  But can someone explain why there are some acres on that campus that have the land valued at  $720,000 per acre and the adjoining parcel, which is used for parking, is valued at $60,000 per acre?

Some of our elected officials claim that we need the Development Authority to take some of the pressure of residential property taxes.   Perhaps we should start with having the commercial properties in Johns Creek fairly assessed.

Then, let’s make sure whatever tax decisions made are applied to all property owners and not just a select few.

Leave the development business to the private sector.

The City should provide a level playing field for everyone.  Anything less is wrong.

 

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann to hold Town Hall Meeting to discuss 2018 Property Assessments

Assessment Notices will be mailed late May

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann, District 1, will hold a Town Hall Meeting on April 24th at Chattahoochee High School to discuss 2018 Property Assessments in order to provide information and assistance to understanding how property is assessed. Assessment Notices will be mailed late May.

“It is my hope that homeowners will attend this important meeting,” states Commissioner Liz Hausmann. “I am holding this town hall to give them an opportunity to ask questions, learn how their property is assessed and to learn about the appeal process if they disagree with the assessed value of their property.”

On Tuesday, April 24th, Commissioner Hausmann, along with staff from the Tax Assessors’ Office, will be at:

Chattahoochee High School
5230 Taylor Road
Johns Creek, GA 30022

7:00pm – 9:00pm

Visit www.fultonassessor.org for more information about property assessments.


This is one of the biggest outstanding issues we face going forward.  We all know the issues we have had with the Tax Assessments here in Johns Creek and the rest of Fulton County.  Around 1/3 of this City’s revenue comes from property taxes.

We also have every reason to believe that valuations are going to rise much much faster than most are prepared for.  And we know the flaws we all face with such a system.

Our city, county and school officials can negate the major portion of this problem by agreeing to start at the “roll-back” rate every year.

Were officials to do this, then over the course of time(10 years for example) the impact to you and your property taxes should be as minimal as possible.  The average of your increases in the years where your property values went up would balance with the years where your property valuations stayed the same IF the roll-back rate was selected every year.

But of course, I cannot be sure I would trust officials to do this over the course of ten years and neither should you.  The temptation for a windfall in tax revenues is just too great for some elected officials.

We encourage you to attend this meeting.  Voice your concerns.  And be sure to ask why there are certain business properties that have also not been revalued for many years.

Only pressure from all of us will encourage a fair and reasonable system to be implemented for all of us.

-EJM

 

Councilwoman Stephanie Endres Protect Us From Approving an Unseen $2 Million Lighting Design

In a recent work session, only Stephanie Endres kept the Johns Creek City Council from approving a $2 million lighting plan which no one has seen on Abbotts Bridge Road. Watch as she asks the hard questions on your behalf and keeps us from being forced to approve any plan on short notice.

Video Source: City of Johns Creek

Commentary: Ernest Moosa

Fake Outrage Sweeps Johns Creek

It’s an election year, and nothing works better for politicians than generating fake outrage at non-issues if it keeps residents from talking about real issues.

The Property Tax Model is Broken Beyond Repair

Let’s be honest. The system of collecting taxes for county, city, and school taxes is broken. And the larger the area dependent on funding from property taxes, the more broken it becomes. North Fulton County residents pay tremendously more for the same county services than South Fulton residents.  Why?

Here are three reasons it needs to be scrapped:

  1. There is no correlation between the amount of taxes you pay and the amount of “services” you receive.

A family of six living in a $500,000 home and a family of two living in a $500,000 home, pay the same property taxes if they live in the same community.  Why?  What makes us feel its fair to collect three times as much tax on a per capita basis from one family than another?  What if the family of two lives in a home worth one million?  What makes it right to collect six times as much for the very same levels of services?  Should I mention that the family of six likely creates more demand for services than the family of two as well?

When property values are high, and tax rates are high, this can have the effect of driving out empty nester residents to avoid the high levels of taxes relative to the services they receive for those tax dollars.

2.  Property values rising(and falling) should have no impact on how much tax revenue is needed to run your county, cities, and schools.

We’ve seen property values fall during recessions and rise during better times.  This should have nothing to do with how many dollars are needed to provide services in your community.  Yet we have made the tax digest the first step in the taxation process, followed by each government agency voting on the millage rate to be applied to that tax digest.  Elected officials vote far more often on how much they will tax you than you have a chance to vote on whether or not they should remain in office.

Let’s add to that the huge infrastructure we now have in place at the Tax Assessor’s office to track every piece of property, every structure, and every improvement you make to your home, all in the effort to make sure every $ of real estate(real or imagined) is taxed.

Why on earth should you owe the government more dollars because you decided to finish your basement or add a deck?

The perverseness of this likely discourages residents from making improvements to their properties.

How much time and energy is used by the Tax Assessor’s office to gather all of this information?  How accurate is it?  Is it worth it?  Who is really benefitting?

3.  How many hours of effort will the Public spend appealing these assessments?

If 1/4 of the households in Johns Creek appeal, that could be as high as 7,000 homes.  Spend five hours on this process, and cumulatively we will have spent 35,000 hours fighting our high assessments.

Instead, why don’t we take a moment and consider a different system?  We do not tax each resident within an HOA a variable amount do we?  It’s a flat rate per household.  While not necessarily the same on a per capita basis, it is a fairer system than taxing each household based upon the value of their property.

What would a fixed property tax collected per residence look like?  First, it would treat all of us as equally as possible.

We would not need an army of government employees tracking our properties, needing to know everything about the inside and outside of our homes.

We would never have to appeal property taxes in the future.

Our governments would be accountable to us directly for the rate of taxation we face, and there would be no finger-pointing as to who is to blame.

The current system of taxation has more expensive property owners subsidizing the less expensive property owners.  In a society where wealth redistribution is frowned upon by most of us, it is curious to me why we are so willing to allow tax redistribution with property taxes, where the level of services received are so far removed from what the property owner pays in taxes.

Johns Creek could lead the way to a better model of taxation for its residents.  It’s time we slay the beast that taxation based on property values has become.   Taxation should not be unfair or onerous.

It’s time for a change.  Contact your locally elected officials and tell them you want a different system.  Tell them you want a better, more equitable system.

 

Johns Creek: Second Best Suburb(and Now City) in Georgia(And Here’s Why)

Recently, Johns Creek was named the second best suburb(and Now City) in Georgia to live.  Coming in second to Decatur, I was curious as to what makes up that ranking (and what role might our local government take in that ranking.  Interestingly enough, other communities are omitted from the suburb category, but are some of the best cities in Georgia to live in.  (It seems that given enough rankings, we can all be winners)

The largest contributor to our ranking is the educational level of adults living in Johns Creek, of course.  We know we are well educated, and that category is 15% of the weighting.

Now which factors are because of our local government?

Property taxes show up in the Housing Grade category, with a ten % weighting.  The effect of Johns Creek on this category might be 1-2% points of that category.

Crime and safety is another category.  With a 5% rating, we will give ½ the credit to the police and fire, and ½ credit to the well-educated public, who should know better than to misbehave.  That brings us up to 3 ½ to 4 ½ %.

The last category Johns Creek contributes to is Outdoor. One-third of that 5% is from having access to parks.  Since this is not limited to parks within your city limits, but all parks including National Parks within a large distance, we will score this category as a 1% contribution from the City of Johns Creek.

In total, that would suggest that 4 ½ to 5 ½ % of our overall score our City Government could take credit for.

The majority of the success for Johns Creek belongs to you.  Yes you.

Well educated, high income earners demanding great homes, working to keep the schools great through property and sales taxes, welcoming to people of all diversities, behaving in the eyes of the law, taking care of your health and the health of your families contributed the most to Johns Creek’s selection as the Second Best Suburb in Georgia.

Go ahead and pat yourself on the back.  You deserve it!

Factors Considered

Factor Description Source Weight
Higher Education Rate Percentage of residents who have received a bachelor’s degree or higher. U.S. Census 15.0%
Cost of Living Grade Based on the consumer price index and access to affordable housing. Niche 10.0%
Housing Grade Based on home values, property taxes, housing costs, local schools, and more. Niche 10.0%
Public Schools Grade Based on the average Niche K-12 Overall Grade for every public school serving the area, where each school is weighted by the number of students it serves. Niche 10.0%
Diversity Grade Based on ethnic, generational and economic diversity. Niche 7.5%
Shortest Commute Grade Based on typical commute times and methods. Niche 7.5%
Composite Overall Score Niche survey responses scored on a 1-5 scale regarding the overall experience of the place. Self-reported by Niche users 5.0%
Crime & Safety Grade Based on violent and property crime rates. Niche 5.0%
Family Grade Based on school quality, safety, and family-friendly living. Niche 5.0%
Health & Fitness Grade Based on community health statistics and access to healthcare. Niche 5.0%
Jobs Grade Based on employment rates, job and economic growth, and cost of living. Niche 5.0%
Nightlife Grade Based on access to bars, restaurants, theaters, and other attractions. Niche 5.0%
Outdoor Activities Grade Based on weather, air quality, and access to parks and other recreational opportunities. Niche 5.0%
Weather Grade Based on number of sunny days, precipitation, and average temperatures in an area. Niche 5.0%

https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/rankings/suburbs/best-suburbs/methodology/

Letter to Editor: Chris Coughlin’s Victory Can Be a Very Positive Change for Johns Creek

Congratulations Chris Coughlin.  While I know that you cannot of your own accord change the direction of the City Council, I do know that you can move the conversation into the directions we need it to proceed. 
 –

While the majority does still lie with the FOUR who endorsed Coughlin’s opponent, the Council conversations during the Work Sessions and City Council meetings are in the eyes of the Public.  I hope that the right questions are asked so that we can get the answers on the record before us.  We will be watching. One of the FOUR, if they are listening to the points of view presented, will hopefully change their perspective and vote accordingly. 

I look forward to the discussions on traffic, our so called Intelligent Traffic Lights, actual traffic data, why we cannot work to improve the performance of underperforming intersections, as well as other opportunities within the world of transportation and commuting in and around Johns Creek.  

I look forward to an honest and frank discussion on business taxes, and the reduction of taxes for ALL Johns Creek businesses, as well as the reduction in regulations that do not add anything but challenges to business operations.  This is a conversation Coughlin started in 2015 and unfortunately, has not gone very far without Coughlin, despite the efforts of Council Member Endres. 

Johns Creek is indeed a great City, and I know Coughlin believes this.  Coughlin’s  approach to problem solving is not a product of Group Think, but a product of Critical Thinking.  I look forward to seeing the results of that Critical Thinking because defining the problems first and then pursuing the best solutions will yield better solutions than what we have been doing in the past: Starting with a solution preferred by a few on the Council and then working backwards to justify it. 

To the Four that endorsed Coughlin’s opponent- Are you listening?  You represent the same electorate that overwhelmingly voted Chris Coughlin to join you on the Council.  Coughlin did  not run a negative campaign.  Coughlin ran on the issues and offered solutions. Coughlin’s policies and principles for good governance were stated and discussed. Solving traffic issues, protecting the residents against higher density developments, reducing business taxes for all businesses, and doing it at the lowest possible cost to residents(even if they could afford to pay more) are the types of Council decisions we seek. 

What are you going to do with that information the voters have just provided to you?  Work against Coughlin’s clearly successful campaign based on ideas and supported by the voters of Johns Creek?  Or join with him and others and help keep Johns Creek the great city it is for the residents of Johns Creek?  I encourage you to each take a step back, and truly listen to the conversations and discussions that we will see occur during the work sessions and the City Council meetings.  Challenge your own beliefs on what is going on in Johns Creek and where we are heading. 

If you can have your beliefs challenged and at the end of the conversation, you still believe that is what best, then so be it.  But if you have your beliefs challenged and discover a better way, then I hope you take that opportunity and change your mind.  By doing so, all of Johns Creek will benefit, including yourselves.  

The choice is yours.  We are watching.

Ernest Moosa: Videotorials

Ernest Moosa compares and contrasts the City Council Candidates: Chris Coughlin & John Flores, from the JCCA debate.

Video Editorial on Traffic

Video Editorial on Business Taxes

 

Video Editorial on Property Taxes: Millage Rate