FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Fulton County Commissioners approved Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand’s contract to collect taxes for three cities Aug. 7, despite criticism of his fee collection policy.
In a 4-2 vote, the board approved the agreements between Ferdinand and the cities of Johns Creek, Mountain Park and Chattahoochee Hills. Commissioners Bob Ellis and Liz Hausmann opposed the measure.
Georgia law allows tax collectors to charge fees for providing tax billing services to cities. Recent reporting by The Georgia New Lab and the Atlanta Journal Constitution found Ferdinand’s total annual income is close to $500,000. That includes his base salary of $161,000 with the county.
Under the municipal contracts, each city pays the tax commissioner $1 per parcel. That adds up to about $210,000 in Johns Creek.
At a recent County Commission meeting, commissioners Ellis, Hausmann and Lee Morris criticized Ferdinand for the practice.
“We have a very high collection rate, and you [Ferdinand] do an excellent job at that,” Hausmann said. “We have to collect taxes. That being said, I can’t vote for this. I’ve never voted for it. I think it’s fundamentally wrong.”
Ellis particularly took issue with the fees going straight to Ferdinand’s pocket and asked that instead the money go to the tax commissioner’s office, a proposal Ferdinand refused.
“I’d be supportive for funds coming back for exclusive use to the tax commissioner’s office, but I think if any other party within government brought forward this it wouldn’t pass the smell test,” Ellis said. “I appreciate the work you [Ferdinand] do, but I can’t support this.”
Ferdinand was unapologetic about the fees.
“Usually work gets compensation,’ he said.
Morris ultimately voted in favor of the contracts, saying that the cities depend on the service.
“Like so many folks, I think the law is wrong quite frankly,” Morris said. “It’s not personal. I just think it’s wrong … but the cities want to pay you these fees to collect their taxes, and for me to vote no would be harming the cities.”
Morris and Commissioner Natalie Hall noted it would be up to the state Legislature if there was an interest in changing the fee structure.
“It didn’t start here,” Hall said. “It’s state law, so anyone who wants to go against that, they need to go to the state because our hands are tied.”