Fulton proposes property tax rate hike

Fulton County Commission chairman expects state to look at Development Authority's per diem fees

Fulton County Commission chairman expects state to look at Development Authority's per diem fees

Fulton County on Wednesday announced a proposed property tax rate hike, but the increase is lower than recommendations made by county staff.

The current rate is 8.87 mills. County staff suggested a rate of 9.3724, based on the expectation of a 3% growth in property valuation, but the tax digest actually grew by more than 11% — meaning more money than anticipated would come in even if the tax rate remained unchanged.

Officials attributed the growth to rising property values.

After some debate and several dueling proposals, commissioners settled on a proposed rate of 9.2724 mills.

Millage rate is used to calculate how much property tax is owed. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

But the proposed rate is a ceiling, not a floor, Chairman Robb Pitts emphasized. The final rate could be reduced, the chairman said, because the actual rate won’t be decided until mid-August, following three required public hearings. Commissioners could go lower than 9.2724 mills, but can’t go higher.

Wednesday’s commission vote was legally required to advertise the proposed rate and set the public hearings. Two of those hearings will be held Aug. 2, morning and evening; the third on Aug. 16, just before the final vote to set the rate, according to county Chief Financial Officer Sharon Whitmore.

The county needs enough revenue to cover an approved General Fund budget of $636.4 million, which the current rate would do, given the growth in property values.

But the county faces major expenses that weren’t anticipated in the budget, mostly related to the deteriorating Fulton County Jail. Those expenses include $5 million approved for emergency repairs and improvements; $19.7 million for a “bridging plan” to keep the jail running until a new one is built; and $40 million to cover design and other costs associated with the new facility before construction bonds are issued, according to county staff.

That’s why a higher millage rate was proposed.

Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. said he wouldn’t support a higher millage rate to fund the jail unless more money is allocated for health care, especially in the southern part of the county. Whitmore said the county’s financial plan includes $30 million more for that purpose.

Commissioner Natalie Hall said she’s heard from many constituents opposed to the higher tax rate proposal.

The newly proposed rate passed 4-2, with Pitts and Commissioner Bridget Thorne opposed.