North Fulton cities set budgets while awaiting direction on property taxes

While many homeowners saw their home values increase, commercial property values declined or were flat, according to Alpharetta, Sandy Springs and Roswell officials.  (Courtesy GDOT)
While many homeowners saw their home values increase, commercial property values declined or were flat, according to Alpharetta, Sandy Springs and Roswell officials. (Courtesy GDOT)

As the pandemic begins to wind down, budgets in some north Fulton cities are ramping up.

Roswell, Alpharetta and Sandy Springs are considering bigger fiscal-year 2022 budgets than fiscal-year 2021, when many businesses were unable to operate at full capacity and commercial property values suffered. The value of residential property, which is used to determine the amount a homeowner pays in property taxes, surged during the pandemic. This means tax bills would rise even if cities keep the tax rate flat.

Home prices across metro Atlanta’s 28 counties soared 17% between March 2020, when the pandemic began, and March 2021, according to Re/Max Around Atlanta. That pushed the median sales price to $308,045.

Alpharetta expects about a 1.4% increase in residential property taxes, city Finance Director Tom Harris said. An Alpharetta home that increased in value to $450,000 could see a property tax increase of about $13, Harris said.

City finance directors said they will know the increase for certain next month when the Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors finishes adjusting property values.

Alpharetta City Council will vote on the city’s $149 million budget following a second reading on June 21. The city passed budgets of $140 million in fiscal year 2021 and $141 million for 2020.

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Alpharetta’s budget report says commercial property values are expected to drop 13% due to the pandemic. Harris said via email that commercial tax revenues budgeted at approximately $16 million in fiscal year 2021 and are expected to drop to about $14 million in fiscal year 2022. Alpharetta’s total property tax revenue is budgeted at $26 million.

In Roswell, officials expect values to be approximately the same as the last fiscal year, according to an email from Communications Manager Karen Zitomer. Total income from property taxes is expected to reach $31.5 million.

Roswell approved its $150 million budget for fiscal year 2022 on May 24, which was about $6 million more than fiscal year 2021 and slightly less than the $152.37 million allotted for fiscal year 2020.

Roswell’s budget shows a 9% increase in spending for services such as police, fire, recreation and parks, transportation and administration.

In the budget report, Roswell Mayor Lori Henry said, “As a result, there are fewer dollars, as compared to previous years, to allocate to new operating or maintenance capital requests.”

Sandy Springs has simplified its budget for fiscal year 2022, making direct comparisons to prior years problematic. City spokesman Dan Coffer said the city expects to have more funds to work with in this year’s budget but officials are awaiting news of property values from Fulton County.

Sandy Springs’ fiscal year 2022 budget of $145 million is a much lower figure than the last two years, but Coffer said it doesn’t include already funded projects that were in previous budgets.

The city’s fiscal year 2021 budget was $489.8 million, down about 11 percent from fiscal year 2020. The projects in those budgets, much of which fell under Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds, accounted for about $181.8 million for each of those two years.

The city was asked for more detailed information to compare differences in the fiscal year 2022 budget more closely.

Sandy Springs Finance Director Toni Jo Howard said the proposed budget includes only a small drop in commercial property tax revenue. The city is budgeting for $38 million in total property tax revenue in fiscal year 2022. That figure is increased only slightly from fiscal year 2021.

Sandy Springs planned to vote on its budget Tuesday.