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2008-11-20 tracking MORE TOP STORIES section
Milton weighs CPI frozen tax exemption
by Jason Wright
November 19, 2008
MILTON - At its work session Nov. 10, Milton's City Council weighed its options in regards to possibly greenlighting a tax exemption previously only offered through Fulton County.

Called CPI frozen, it is part of a 2004 state Senate bill that says a residential property reassessment cannot go up more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) - the main gauge of inflation - or 3 percent. The law applies only to Fulton County property taxes, so when the city incorporated in 2006, the exemption went away for Milton residents. No other city in Fulton offers the exemption.

Crooked Creek resident Mark Hanley was the main proponent of getting the issue before council after bringing it up at an Oct. 16 citizens meeting at City Hall. He said he feels it is a secret tax increase.

"I feel pretty strongly on this," he said. "I believe one of the main principles when founding the city was transparency in this type of thing. I feel that tax increases should be voted on by you and me."

He said instituting the exemption "would send a strong message to the citizens."

Finance Director Stacey Inglis said if Milton had offered the exemption to homeowners in 2008, its revenues would have decreased some $200,000. Plus, she said, she's not even sure Fulton County could provide Milton the information it needs to extend the exemption to city homeowners.

"It might be so complicated that we would have to ask Fulton County to bill our taxes for us," she said.

Mayor Joe Lockwood said this issue was one that "fell between the cracks" and was not anticipated.

"It's sort of a double edged sword," said Mayor Joe Lockwood. "We certainly don't want to raise taxes on our citizens, and we understand that everyone's having to tighten their belts, and the same thing goes for the city."

Councilwoman Tina D'Aversa said when the issue came before council early in the city's life, the view was that it did not constitute a tax increase. At the time, she said, it was clear no other cities – including recent start ups Sandy Springs and Johns Creek - gave the exemption.

"We were not looking to go against what we had professed to the community as 'no tax increases,'" she said.

Councilwoman Karen Thurman said before she even thought about the issue, she wanted to know if Fulton County could provide the needed information to pass the exemption on to residents.

"I need to know the exact total impact this will have on us and all the residents of Milton," she said.

Inglis said the city has until February to make a decision. Staff was instructed to do more research and report their findings in January.

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