Fulton County Schools: Tax situation ‘dire’

Fulton, Atlanta school districts to join Fulton County in seeking tax collection order

Fulton County and Atlanta school districts are scrambling to figure out how to make ends meet after the state revenue department rejected Fulton County’s tax digest.

This week's decision delays the tax collection for the two school districts, whose budgets are hugely dependent on local property taxes.

Both districts plan to join the county in pursuing a tax collection order from a judge. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3.

Fulton County Schools officials called the revenue department’s decision “a severe blow” to its ability to pay bills and employees in the coming weeks.

Chief financial officer Robert Morales described the situation as “dire.”

“We are trying to determine how the district will operate without the anticipated tax revenue, and we may need to borrow money to make our payroll and pay our bills,” he said, in a written statement.

A statement from the district indicated officials have “no idea” when it will receive money it typically collects in mid-October.

Atlanta Public Schools estimates Fulton County’s tax digest generates about 62.5 percent of its $777 million operating budget.

The district already took out a $100 million loan to solve immediate cash-flow problems caused by earlier delays in the county's assessment process that had backed up the collection time frame.

Now, Atlanta officials are hustling to figure out how to repay that loan plus interest and fees. It is due by the end of December.

“We are honestly looking at every available opportunity we have,” said the district’s chief financial officer Lisa Bracken. “This is just so out of the norm that... there’s not a lot of precedent.”

Failure to repay the loan would severely hurt the district’s credit rating, she said.

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