(Note: This column was written before the Fulton County legislative delegation bills were brought forward.)
Along with a new year comes a new legislative session. In Fulton County, the 2013 session at the Gold Dome promises significant changes. Among them are changes in leadership in both the House and Senate delegations.
There is a great deal of talk of reform and makeover. Like many of our citizens, I welcome the opportunity to pave the way for changes that will make our government more responsive to our citizens.
In coming days, we expect to hear proposals for redistricting. Many citizens have expressed a desire for an additional district commission seat, and we expect to see legislation supporting that position.
There are also proposals to make changes to the chairman’s seat, including a proposal to create a full-time chairman. After seven years in this office, I can certainly see the need for a full-time elected chairman who can provide day-to-day guidance and leadership for Fulton County government.
We are the only large metro county without a full-time chairman’s position, and I believe the citizens of our county deserve that level of leadership. I believe the model that our neighbors in Cobb have in place is one that has served them well and one that provides greater stability and less political gamesmanship. The time to make that change is now.
It is critical that we work together at all levels of government – city, county, state and federal agencies – aligned in service to our shared constituents. We must also work from a place of transparency and integrity, without succumbing to rhetoric and misinformation.
I have read some reports from colleagues in the General Assembly, including Rep. Jan Jones, the speaker pro tempore, that may not be completely accurate in their depiction of Fulton County government.
While I welcome positive changes for our county, I also want residents to be aware of the many positive things that are taking place today.
• On Jan. 23, Fulton County adopted a new budget that institutes a number of efficiencies while maintaining critical services for residents. Fulton County residents should be aware that we have the lowest general fund millage rate in the metro Atlanta area, and we are the only metro county that has not increased its millage rate since 1991 despite several economic downturns.
• Our per capita spending is closely aligned with every other metro Atlanta county. Most Fulton County residents will see their property taxes remain the same or decrease, depending on their property assessment.
• Fulton County homeowners have the highest homestead exemption rate in the entire state of Georgia. While most other counties have a homestead exemption of $10,000, Fulton County’s homestead exemption is $30,000.
• Looking at a snapshot of the county’s actual expenditures, spending dropped by more than $61 million from 2007 to 2012.
• We have restored library hours, ensuring that all residents have access to these important services. We continue to make progress toward new libraries as part of the capital plan.
• We have also approved a new animal services contractor, who will serve all county residents starting in a few weeks. This service is critical in ensuring that we have safe and humane treatment of animals, and we look forward to hearing from citizens in this regard.
• Several key initiatives specific to North Fulton were included, such as new funds for senior services in Milton and continued funding for the Chattahoochee Nature Center.
Efficient and effective service is our singular focus. We are open to all ideas that lead us in the right direction. All of this translates to a strong county serving a strong and vibrant community.