ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The Alpharetta City Council gave final approval June 4 to a $141 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

The proposed 2020 budget, which goes into effect July 1, calls for $12 million in increased spending over last year. 

Council members also voted to maintain the city’s tax rate on commercial and residential property at 5.75 mills, the same as in the past 12 years, even though early estimates show revenues from the tax will dip this year. One mill generates $1 in revenue for every $1,000 in a property’s taxable value.

Thanks to a new “floating homestead exemption” passed by local voters last year, owner-occupied homes this year will enjoy a reset in their values back to the lowest level in the past three years. This means many local homeowners will receive a reduction from last year in their property tax bills.

City officials passed the proposed budget on its first reading May 28. 

Adoption of the 2020 budget comes despite officials having no clear picture yet of how much the city expects to receive in property tax revenue. The city’s property values are set by the Fulton County Assessor’s Office, which has yet to release the abstract.

City officials say the new exemption will mean a decrease in property tax revenues to the city of almost $600,000, a decline of about 2.4 percent from last year.

However, Alpharetta Finance Director Tom Harris said the city expects revenues to increase from other sources, such as licensing and franchise fees, insurance premium taxes and charges for services.

Another key funding source is the special transportation sales tax, now in its third year. This year, the city expects to receive about $16.3 million which will be applied to major road projects approved by voters when the tax was passed in 2016.

The 2020 budget includes the addition of 8.5 full-time-equivalent employees, bringing the total to 452.

Of note in this year’s budget, city officials eliminated $29,000 in funding for fees and consulting work to the Georgia Municipal Association after that organization lobbied this year for passage of a telecom bill the city opposed. The appropriation will now be used for local capital projects.

In other action at the June 3 meeting, the City Council approved authorization of eminent domain to acquire rights to four properties along Thompson Street for construction of the Alpha Loop – the city’s parks trail circling the business district.

Mayor Jim Gilvin said he receives questions about the trail regularly, but as long as the city remains committed to the project, it cannot endure unreasonable delays. The city, he said, remains committed to offering fair compensation for use of property to its residents, and use of eminent domain is a last resort.

“It isn’t anything we do without a tremendous amount of thought and consideration, but I do believe it is the best thing we can do in the public interest on this item,” he said.

Councilman Dan Merkel added that the loop plans through the area will not diminish the value of the properties. If anything, he said, it will increase value because it is a wetlands area.

Community Development Director Kathi Cook said the city has spent about $2 million on the Alpha Loop since it was first proposed two years ago. 

The trail was proposed by then-Mayor David Belle Isle and calls for a path consisting of a 3-mile inner loop and a 5-mile outer loop connecting locations like downtown with the Avalon mixed-use development to the east and the Northwinds area to the south.

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