FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Disagreement over how much money commissioners should spend on travel dominated budget discussions at a Jan. 9 meeting of the Fulton County Commission.

Commissioner Bob Ellis asked to have his travel budget, which was recently raised to $50,000, cut by $45,000. 

Commissioner Marvin Arrington opposed Ellis’s motion, saying that all commissioner’s travel budgets should be the same. 

The dispute led to discussion over whether commissioners could reduce or redistribute the funds that go to their office. 

The commission voted Dec. 19 to up individual travel budgets from 12,000 to $50,000 annually. That resolution stated that the travel budget could be used for staff training and that money could be transferred to other operating accounts in the commissioner’s office.

Ellis and Commissioner Liz Hausmann voted against the change.

“If I know I’m not going to spend it, I’d like to set it at a lower level. That’s all,” Ellis said at the Jan. 9 meeting. 

County Attorney Patrise M. Perkins-Hooker said it would require a vote of the board to remove the money from Ellis’s budget or redistribute it to another area of the budget outside of his office. Alternatively, any amount in the travel budget that the commissioners do not spend would be returned to the general fund at the end of the year. 

In other business Jan. 9, commissioners decided to add an item to its legislative priorities in 2019, with sights set once again on tax relief for homeowners. Commissioner Emma Darnell proposed a measure that would protect lower and moderate income neighborhoods from tax increases when large “mini-mansions” are built next door. 

Darnell’s proposal received support from several speakers during public comment and from the board. There was some debate over the exact language of the proposal, however, with some commissioners noting that home appraisal problems do not just affect low-income neighborhoods. 

“What is being described as happening here in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods is actually happening in every neighborhood at every income level,” Commissioner Lee Morris said. 

The Fulton County Commission will consider adopting the 2019 budget at its next meeting Jan. 23 at 10 a.m. at 141 Pryor St. in Atlanta. The proposed budget can be viewed at fultoncountyga.gov/fcfd-budget-information.

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