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North Fulton legislators move to reshape Fulton County

Bills to curb property taxes, redistrict county

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February 06, 2013
JOHNS CREEEK, Ga. The makeover of Fulton County has begun as promised by the Fulton legislative delegation. Changes in the way taxes are collected and who pays, the redistricting of the county's commission districts and how county employees are managed are contained in bills dropped this week in the legislative hopper.

Flexing their new powers won by redistricting Fulton's legislative districts, North Fulton Republican legislators are remaking the county government the Republicans have criticized for so long.

In a three-pronged thrust, the GOP legislators are attacking what they say is a fat and unresponsive Fulton government. Three bills dropped Feb. 1 will curb Fulton by:

Reducing property taxes and curbing the county's ability to raise the millage rate.

Making it easier to discipline and fire county employees.

Correcting the imbalance of power on the county commission through redistricting.

First up is House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones' bill that would double the homestead exemption from $30,000 to $60,000 phased in over two years. Jones said the move will protect Fulton homeowners from the "county's burdensome high county property taxes."

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"I want to enable taxpayers to stay in Fulton County if they choose to, instead of escaping to lower-cost counties," Jones said.

The legislation also freezes the property tax rate for two years at the current 10.281 mills. Increasing the millage rate thereafter will require a supermajority vote of the county commission instead of a simple majority vote, as is current law.

Jones said Fulton County taxes and spends substantially more per person than all other metro counties. She said in both the 2011 and 2012 county budgets, Fulton County's per capita expenditures were more than double those of Gwinnett County and 67 percent higher than those of Cobb County.

Perhaps the most potentially far-reaching bill was the one from state Rep. Lynne Riley, R-Johns Creek, who submitted a bill that would dissolve one of the county-wide districts (now held by Commissioner Robb Pitts). That would leave six commission districts and the chairman who would be elected county-wide.

The chairman's seat would carry with it more power and the bill would provide for a full-time chairman and paid commensurately.

Re-election terms would be staggered instead of all seven seats elected in the same year.

With six district seats, the power of Atlanta would be diminished, which can and often does have the votes to swing at least two seats on the board.

Riley said this gives Atlanta disproportionate clout on the Board of Commissioners that its population does not warrant.

The same day, state Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, submitted a bill of local legislation that would make all newly hired employees unclassified. As unclassified employees, they cannot appeal to the personnel board if demoted, suspended or fired. Any current classified Fulton employee who changes positions within the county would become unclassified as well.

Martin said his bill would make Fulton County employees more accountable and make employees "more responsive to the needs of Fulton County residents."

Martin's legislation would apply to all Fulton County employees in all branches and divisions within the county government hired after the legislation's effective date.

The legislation would not alter the status of any current employee who remains in their current position, nor alter the salary or any other benefits entitled to Fulton County employees.

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Tags: Government & News & Crime

  1. report print email
    Don't like Lynne Riley's bill
    February 06, 2013 | 09:30 PM

    Lynne Riley's bill to make the commission members serve staggered terms does not sound right. Neither does the idea of giving the commission chairman higher pay, a year round job, and more responsibilities. This just makes for more career politicians.

    I do like Jan Jones' bill and Chuck Martin's bill. They sound reasonable and helpful.

    An observer
    Johns Creek
  2. report print email
    North Fulton Delegation
    February 10, 2013 | 09:29 AM

    What in the heck is the "North Fulton Delegation"???

  3. report print email
    County Rules or State?
    February 12, 2013 | 12:15 PM

    I like Chuck Martin... I went to school with him. But I'm just a bit confused how a state representative can introduce a bill that regulates how a county conducts it's personnel affairs.

  4. report print email
    Fair is fair...
    February 14, 2013 | 09:58 AM

    You should see what crazy race baiting the South siders are doing on this matter. See Emma Darnell and bill Edwards comments, and there public meetings. Google it.

    Fulton is 47% white, and 44% black and all this bill does is creating 3 fair and racially balanced districts...if the democrats had been fair in the redistricting process there would be no need for this...

    The delegation = the statewide elected officials who serve Fulton. Now favoring republicans for the first time in several decades.

  5. report print email
    February 19, 2013 | 02:09 PM

    Emotions vs. Facts: It Appears Fulton County Democrats are Wrong in Their Opposition to HB171
    by Andre Walker
    House Bill 171 is a redistricting bill. It redistricts the Fulton County Commission. The bill also restructures the Fulton County Commission. Instead of five district commissioners and two county-wide commissioners, House Bill 171 eliminates one county-wide commissioner and adds one more district commissioner. It's that simple. And yet, this simple bill with its simple map is opposed by simple people relying on simple emotions to make their simple point.

    All those who gain power are afraid to lose it; even John Eaves, Robb Pitts, Emma Darnell, Joan Garner and Bill Edwards.

    Last week, the five Fulton County commissioners I just named voted to oppose House Bill 171. In their opposition statement, the five commissioners said, "it appears that, if adopted, House Bill 171 would substantially reduce the ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, in violation of federal law."

    The five Fulton County commissioners opposing House Bill 171 didn't provide any stats or facts. They made a simple blank statement. It appears, if adopted, House Bill 171 would substantially reduce the ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, in violation of federal law.

    Dictionary.com defines the word "appears" as, "to have the appearance of being; seem; look: to appear wise."

    A person can "appear" wise, but at closer examination, they are not wise at all. It is the opinion of five Fulton County commissioners that House Bill 171 "appears" to substantially reduce the ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, but at closer examination, House Bill 171 does not do that at all.

    Utilizing the maps described in House Bill 171, the current Fulton County Commission maps and Dave's Redistricting 2.2, I put together actual facts and figures I believe refutes the arguments being made by Democrats in Fulton County.

    The current Fulton County Commission maps (shown right) violate the principle of "one man, one vote." Districts three (colored blue) and seven (colored yellow) have too many people. Districts five (colored red) and six (colored purple) have too few people. The United States Supreme Court ruled that districts must contain roughly the same number of people in order to comply with "one man, one vote." If the current Fulton County Commission maps were challenged in court today, they'd likely be thrown because of the facts and figures shown in the stat sheet below:

    Compare the current Fulton County maps to the maps created by House Bill 171 (shown left). Six districts --all compact, all contiguous, all containing communities of interest-- uphold one man, one vote. All six districts have roughly the same number of people in them. Again I point to facts and figures to support my assertions. . .

    Where is the reduced ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners?

    According to the facts, the maps conceived by House Bill 171 creates three districts where minorities can elect a person who looks like me to the Fulton County Commission. That is, incidentally, the same number of districts minorities can influence under the current maps.

    Again I ask, where is the reduced ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice to the Fulton County Board of Commissioners? Commissioners John Eaves, Robb Pitts, Emma Darnell, Joan Garner and Bill Edwards must have some facts to back up their rhetoric, right? Unless those five are just selling wolf tickets. I believe it is the latter.

    Fulton County Democrats fear losing their power, and they're using

    johns creek
  6. report print email
    Pig slop
    February 20, 2013 | 09:37 AM

    No matter whether you like or dislike these bills they are wrong for the Fulton and the state of Georgia. The political minority in Fulton (Republicans) are using the state's political majority (Republicans) to exact revenge upon the county's political majority (Democrats). The GOP can not win an election in Fulton County no matter how you slice it. This smells horrible. If the Democrats were doing it to Republicans it wouldn't be right either. The minority party in Fulton is over playing it's hand. Every county in the state could be subjected to this wrong handed approach. This amounts to forcing your way to the party when you didn't have the votes to get in to start. BTW, reading Andre "Gap Teeth" Walker will lead to brain rot.

    south fulton
  7. report print email
    February 20, 2013 | 11:52 AM

    James - then make the Districts equal in population! The democrats have over-played their hand for years...why at large seats, at all? Are not the blacks in Fayette against that? As a moderate I voted for Norwood and Obama; I want equal representation. 48 percent!

    James Response
  8. report print email
    Fulton County Commission
    February 20, 2013 | 12:37 PM

    White folks don't matter....thanks James!

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