NORTH FULTON, Ga. — It will be a merrier Christmas for employees of the Fulton County School System who will get paid a week ahead of schedule, thanks to early tax payments by Fulton County homeowners.
Although property tax bills for Fulton County are not due until mid-January – three months later than usual – a higher than expected number of tax payments have already flowed in to the Tax Commissioner’s office well before the deadline.
“Tax receipts from the Fulton County Tax Commissioner’s Office...amounted to more than $84 million through December 15, giving the school district enough funds to issue employee paychecks on December 22, a week earlier than previously announced,” said a spokesperson for Fulton Schools.
Payroll for the school system, including benefits, is approximately $70 million a month for the district’s 14,000 employees.
Fulton Schools expects the remaining receipts to continue to come in through the January 15 deadline, putting the system in good financial shape for the remaining months of the school year.
The delay in tax bills started with a decision by the Fulton County Commission in June to freeze 2017 home values at the 2016 level in response to homeowner complaints of inflated home values. But the Georgia Department of Revenue rejected the tax digest, citing a number of legal problems, primarily focused on commercial property owners not receiving the same benefit.
It took a court order to allow Fulton County to send out tax bills while the issue is sorted out; leading to the delay in payments.
The early surge in payments was attributed in part to Fulton County officials who embarked on a public service campaign aimed at property owners and mortgage companies to pay the tax bills before the due date.
They stressed the early payments would allow governments to continue providing services as normal and pay employees.
Fulton Schools tied their belts tight in October, halting new hires and most spending and placing a moratorium on out-of-system travel and student field trips.
Healthy reserves held by the school system allowed it to avoid furloughing employees – which City of Atlanta Schools faced.
Even with the spending freeze, Fulton School officials were uncertain if the Dec. 22 payday could be met. But the response to the early payment request, along with the fiscal health of the school system, pulled the system through.
“We are enormously grateful to our school board for their years of fiscal responsibility, which gave us $295 million in healthy cash reserves that sustained us through the property tax crisis,” said Fulton Superintendent Dr. Jeff Rose.
The county may have also benefited from the recently passed tax reform legislation which limits local property tax deductions to $10,000 annually. For homeowners who wait until after the first of the year, they will likely pay two tax bills in 2018 — both the 2017 and the 2018 bills – potentially pushing them over the threshold of available deductions.