APS to Fulton County taxpayers: Please pay taxes early

Atlanta Public Schools officials are asking Fulton County taxpayers for a favor: To pay their tax bills now instead of waiting until the Dec. 31 deadline.

If enough taxpayers answer the call, employees forced to take two furlough days next week will be paid back for those days sooner than expected.

The long-delayed Fulton tax bills were mailed last week following a judge's order to begin collection after the state Department of Revenue rejected the county's tax digest. The district still has a cash-flow problem as it waits for that money -- which makes up about 62.5 percent of its $777 million budget -- to start coming in.

To make ends meet until then, the district will furlough about 1,200 non-teaching employees for two days during the Thanksgiving week. It plans to pay those employees for the days off after it has more money in January.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen acknowledged during a Monday board meeting that the two unpaid days come during the holidays and when colder weather increases the cost of utilities. And even though the district plans to eventually make their paychecks whole, she said taking two unpaid days off will affect some lower-wage employees. Positions to be furloughed range from the superintendent to custodians and administrative assistants.

“I know it’s going to hurt people in the holiday season,” she said. “If the community pays early enough…, and we are out of the woods sooner than later, we will make things right sooner rather than later, especially those who felt the furlough’s days, because it is the holiday season and every dollar counts,” Carstarphen said.

She and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Bracken took time during Monday’s meeting to ask taxpayers to pay taxes as soon as possible or to call their mortgage companies to ask that payments made on their behalf are expedited.

Carstarphen even took to her official blog to ask taxpayers to send payments early.

APS also froze hiring and spending, among other penny-pinching maneuvers.