Fulton revisits possible millage increase

Public hearing set July 11; Hausmann opposes tax hike

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ATLANTA— County residents will be able to make their voices heard in person or via video-conference at a July 11 public hearing on whether to increase the millage rate.

The county is reconsidering increasing the millage rate from 10.281 mills to 10.791 mills to offset a decline in property values.

County officials say the millage rate will be revenue neutral for many because the tax increase will be offset by the devaluation of property. However, individual property owners will see varied results.

Should the increase pass, it would add $17 million to the county’s General Fund. If the rate does not pass, recommended budget cuts include the reduction or elimination of certain services, including arts, human services and FRESH grants, reducing the hours of libraries and reducing the funding of Grady Health Care System.

Fulton County Public Affairs Manager Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez said these are not services mandated by the state or the federal governments, so this is where the county manager focused the first cuts.

The county has not had a millage rate increase in more than 10 years and has maintained the current millage rate since 2007. Real and personal property values have declined $7.35 billion over the last four years from $48.04 billion in 2008 to $40.69 billion in 2012, a decline of 15.3 percent.

Georgia also has doubled the homestead exemption since 2008 from $15,000 to $30,000, further decreasing county revenues. When the exemption is coupled with the fall in property values, there has been an overall 33.3 percent decline in property tax generated.

For example, if a home’s value declined from $150,000 to $127,050, the county tax collected drops from $462.65 to $214.05 or 46 percent. But for homeowners whose property values have started to rise again, it will mean paying more tax.

The county’s unemployment rate was at 10.5 percent in 2011 with those living in poverty rising from 14.2 percent to 17.7 percent from 2007 to 2010, so at the time there is an increased burden on county services, declining tax revenues has meant shrinking expenditures.

The county spent $641.6 million in 2007, and by 2011 county spending was $558.4 million, a reduction of $83.2 million.

The hearing will take place 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 11, at the Fulton County Government Center on Pryor Street in Atlanta. The meeting will also be teleconferenced at the north and south Fulton service centers. North Fulton residents who wish to participate can go to the North Fulton Government Service Center, 7741 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs.

In a statement on her website, Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann said taxpayers were at their limits and that she opposed any tax increase. She and Commissioner Robb Pitts voted against advertising a tax increase.