ATLANTA – Fulton County has a 1.57 mill tax increase on the table this year, but according to state legislation passed in 2013, the county is forbidden to raise its millage rate until 2015.
After 2015, the county may only raise the millage rate with a super majority vote, which means at least five votes on the seven-member board.
Fulton County commissioners and other opponents of the law said the legislation, which Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law, is not legal. Counties formulate their budgets under what is called “home rule,” which gives them the sole authority to tax their residents for the operation of that county.
Fulton – joined by letters of support from all metro county chairpersons – questioned the legality of such legislation that not only infringed on the home rule principle, but singled out Fulton County from among the other 158 Georgia counties.
“The county attorney has told us we are within our rights to raise taxes,” Fulton Chairman John Eaves said.
Eaves said the county has avoided a tax increase despite the recession, but now it must follow the path all other metro counties have and raise its millage rate. He noted the county has reduced services. Most visibly are its libraries, which have reduced hours and are closed weekends. County Manager Dwight Ferrell has already instituted a hiring freeze.
Commissioner Liz Hausmann said the County Commission has simply done a poor job of managing a bloated budget, and now is asking the taxpayers to pay for that mismanagement.
If the millage increase is passed, Eaves said Fulton will defend it in court if challenged.