By: Ed Thompson, Preserve Johns Creek
At the Fulton County Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, August 1st, an agenda item was set to consider the property tax millage rate for 2018. With the recently updated property value assessments significantly higher in 2018, most jurisdictions have been debating the extent to which they would adjust the millage rate in order to offset (to some degree) the increased values against which the millage rate is applied.
County Staff submitted several scenarios with millage rates from 9.77 up to 10.20. Three Commissioners representing North Fulton Districts (District 1 – including Johns Creek, represented by Liz Hausmann, District 2 – Bob Ellis, District 3 – Lee Morris) all presented their perspectives in opposition to Scenario 6 that would set the millage rate at 10.20. Despite their opposing votes, the motion approving the millage rate at 10.20 was approved with the votes of Chairman Rob Pitts, District 4 Natalie Hall, District 5 Marvin Arrington, and District 6 Emma Darnell.
As noted by Commissioner Ellis, the approved millage rate would collect $150MM in additional property tax revenue and would exceed the 2018 budget while adding $33.3MM in surplus to reserves.
Editorially, this is pure government greed. There are no additional or improved County services that warrant this increase in property taxes. There is no justification for setting a millage rate that exceeds a budget that is already ripe with opportunity for reductions. It’s ironic that a question was posed to the County Manager asking how much the budget had been reduced each year since 2015, and he could not answer that question. The question had been posed expecting to show how the requested increase in taxes was meant to make up for fiscal restraint in past years. Instead, anyone watching would have understood that there has been no restraint, and this is an unwarranted extortion of property tax revenue from Fulton County residents.
However, there is a twist in this story.
Fulton County property assessment appeals exceeded two thresholds that may cause this process to have to make certain adjustments. Those two thresholds are: 1) the number of properties appealed as a percent of total properties, and 2) the value of properties appealed as a percent of total property value. Fulton County has requested a hearing to request permission to issue property tax bills that reference the updated 2018 assessments. Under the requested permission, properties that were NOT appealed would receive tax bills using the 2018 assessed value while properties that WERE appealed would receive tax bills using 85% of the 2018 assessed value. A final ruling on that request is pending. Stay tuned.