NORTH FULTON, Ga. — North Fulton voters overwhelmingly passed ballot measures Tuesday that will give local homeowners a break on property assessments next year and some predictability on future value increases.
Residents in Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek and Roswell voted nearly 3-1 in favor of a plan passed by the Legislature this March that will reset property assessments on owner-occupied homes from their current taxable value to their lowest level since 2016. From that point forward, the taxable value on these homes can only rise each year by 3 percent or the cost of living rate, whichever is lower.
The value resets on homesteaded property extend beyond North Fulton cities. Throughout the county, voters passed a similar measure to apply the same assessment formula for owner-occupied homes in the Fulton County School District.
The initiative comes in response to widespread “sticker shock” last year when Fulton County homeowners saw their property values rise by as much as 50 percent in some cases. Overall, property assessments shot up by more than 13 percent for two-thirds of county homeowners, leading to a series of public meetings where angry residents voiced their outrage.
Tuesday’s vote was gratifying for District 2 Fulton County Commissioner Bob Ellis, who has been at the forefront of the fight against wild gyrations in property assessments.
“They all passed with similar spreads: 75-80 percent,” Ellis said. “It was indicative that throughout the county, regardless of demographics, party affiliation, whatever, there was widespread support for having more predictability in property taxes.”
Ellis said he was elated by the support, but not all taxing jurisdictions had the initiatives on the ballot. Atlanta Public Schools and some cities in South Fulton were not included in the homestead exemption referendum.
The new assessment formula should also free up the backlog of appeals the county has been dealing with over the past couple of years, Ellis said.
“It doesn’t solve everything, because I think you’re still going to have appeals, and we certainly have a large batch we need to work through at the moment,” he said. “I’ve been less than pleased at the pace at the response at which taxpayers are getting through the appeals process. Going forward, the notion people are going to feel [appeals] are their only recourse… will normalize.”
In addition to the ballot measures to reset and cap homestead properties, Fulton voters also passed another initiative that grants a $50,000 reduction for seniors over the age of 65 who own their own homes.
Brunch Bill passes
Elsewhere, North Fulton cities overwhelmingly adopted local provisions allowing for the sale of alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays - 90 minutes earlier than under the current law. The measure passed in Alpharetta, Roswell, Milton and Johns Creek with more than 70 percent of the vote.
In Alpharetta, the City Council has already passed a provision to amend its city code that still prohibits open carry of alcohol before 12:30 p.m. on Sundays.
In a separate ballot question, county voters backed a measure to amend the Georgia Constitution to eliminate the formation of the Fulton County Industrial District and allow for the annexation of the area by the City of South Fulton or Atlanta.
Constitutional amendments pass
In other results involving ballot questions, statewide voters overwhelmingly supported five changes to the Georgia Constitution.
The first question dealt with establishing a Stewardship Trust Fund, whereby the state Legislature may devote up to 80 percent of the existing sales taxes collected by sporting goods stores into a trust fund dedicated to preserving the state’s natural resources. Its primary sponsors included the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Coalition and The Georgia Conservancy.
Voters also supported establishment of a state business court whose judges will be appointed by the governor to serve five-year terms. Currently, State Courts and Superior Courts, whose judges are elected, consider business matters.
A third amendment that also passed Tuesday allows the Legislature to adjust the formula determining the taxable value of timber land. The amendment will create a class of qualifying timberland that would also be eligible for tax breaks, even without restrictive covenants for owners of 50-plus acres. It would require the State Department of Revenue – not local tax assessors – be responsible for assessing these properties.
“Marsy’s Law,” the fourth constitutional ballot issue, received the greatest margin of support among statewide voters, garnering 81 percent of the nearly 4 million votes cast. The amendment provides constitutional rights for crime victims to be made aware of all proceedings involving the alleged criminal; the right to be heard at any proceedings involving the release, plea or sentencing of the accused; and the right to be informed of their rights. The measure also gives the Legislature the ability to further define, expand and provide for enforcement of these rights.
Constitutional Question 5, which received more than 2-1 support from voters, allows a county or a city school district the ability to place on the ballot a referendum for a 1 percent sales and use tax for education without the consent of another school district in the county.
Two other statewide questions on the ballot passed with little opposition.
The first is a measure granting a homestead exemption to those who live in a city that levies a transportation sales tax and whose boundaries lie in more than one county and which also has an independent school system.
The second measure, which passed with 73 percent of the vote, clarifies that the existing exemption from ad valorem taxes for nonprofit homes for the mentally disabled applies even when financing for construction or upgrades of the homes is provided by a business corporation or other entity.