It’s hard to believe 2018 is already behind us. Looking back, in Fulton County we made progress in several key areas: transportation and transit, improving our tax assessment process — including rolling out new homestead exemptions for the benefit of our homeowners — and ramping up our behavioral health programs to combat the opioid epidemic and other issues afflicting families.
Before we officially move on to 2019, it’s worth taking a moment to revisit these successes of this year.
In 2018, we made great strides to improve our transportation network through partnerships with our cities, state officials and the federal government. Early on, Fulton County mayors and commissioners agreed on the Fulton Transit Master Plan’s recommendation that bus rapid transit (BRT) along Ga. 400 would provide the best return on investment for our region. Not long after, state government endorsed our BRT plan as Gov. Nathan Deal announced $100 million in state funding to support the rollout, marking the first time that Georgia, Fulton County and MARTA directly partnered together on a mass transit project.
Of course, to fully implement transit expansion in Fulton County, a referendum to expand sales tax funding will need to be approved by our citizens. When implemented, we expect to see a substantial improvement in traffic congestion while providing a safe, fast and convenient new way to travel. And in 2019, the Atlanta Transit Link will provide a new avenue for regional improvements.
Improving our property tax assessment process was a key priority for Fulton County and our legislative delegation in 2018. Among other efforts, the Board of Commissioners invested in improvements to the Tax Assessor’s system to enhance communication to ensure citizens receive accurate information, allowed for online appeals and held community meetings in each commission district to allow homeowners to directly speak with the chief appraiser. At the General Assembly, we worked with our delegation to pass a new senior homestead exemption along with floating homestead exemptions for all North Fulton cities and Fulton County Schools to prevent value increases turning into an unfair tax hike. Voters endorsed these measures at the ballot box in November, and they will provide relief in 2019.
Improving behavioral health services was another 2018 priority for Fulton County. First, we designated an opioid coordinator to collaborate our efforts throughout the county. The coordinator has participated in over 15 public meetings with partners throughout the region, including private sector addiction counseling services. The Fulton County Commission also voted to continue to supply our first responders with Naloxone, saving lives in the tragic event of an opioid overdose. Currently, we are working with the Fulton County Behavioral Health Working Group at the General Assembly to identify potential state legislation to bring crisis and assessment centers to Fulton County.
As we turn to 2019, we will be working with our newly elected legislative delegation and city leadership to provide quality services for our community. Among things you can expect are a continued focus on transportation and transit expansion, library renovations throughout the county, plans for a new animal control shelter, an economic development plan to market the Fulton County story throughout the country, plans for a performing arts center in Johns Creek and overall continued effort to improve and streamline all government services and administration.
Heading into the new year, we have positive momentum for a bright future for Fulton County. Best wishes for a prosperous, healthy and happy 2019!