Atlanta school officials: Freezing Fulton County property values will hurt kids

Freezing Fulton County property values could lead to significant cuts in Atlanta schools, Atlanta Public Schools officials said Wednesday

Their comments came the day before the Fulton County Board of Assessors is scheduled to consider rescinding new property value assessments that for many residents are sharp increases over the previous year. Half of all values are up by 20 percent or more over last year. Nearly a quarter are at least 50 percent higher.  

Fulton County and City of Atlanta officials have asked the board to cancel the higher assessments.

But school taxes account for the largest portion of most homeowners’ tax bills. And Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen has said freezing assessments is the wrong move. (The Fulton County school board has not taken a position on the issue, spokesperson Susan Hale said Wednesday.)

Atlanta Public Schools was counting on an assessment increase of about 6 percent this year. That would allow the school district to keep the same tax rate as last year, but collect about $24 million more from local taxpayers. The sky-high assessments released this spring were a potential windfall for the district.

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Cancelling the higher assessments completely completely could mean sharp cuts, such as leaving hundreds of classroom positions vacant, laying off other employees and reneging on promises of raises for teachers, Carstarphen wrote to Fulton County Attorney Patrise Perkins-Hooker.

Instead, school officials want the board of assessors to consider a compromise that would let them hang onto some of the higher revenue they were counting on without shocking homeowners too much -- perhaps capping assessments or phasing in higher assessments over time. In return, the board would consider setting a tax rate below last year’s, board chairman Courtney English said.

“We're hoping for a balanced approach that doesn't harm the school system, that doesn't impede our ability to delivery a high quality education for kids and respects the fact that these reassessments are going to hit people hard,” board chairman Courtney English said.

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