Fulton County withdraws petition related to freezing property values

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Fulton County could be forced to refund thousands of homeowners millions of property tax dollars after revelations their homes were illegally overvalued.

Fulton County will no longer go to court later this month to defend county commissioners' decision to freeze 2017 property values at 2016 levels.

The county attorney, Patrise Perkins-Hooker, withdrew her request in Fulton County Superior Court to compel the state Department of Revenue to approve the tax digest it rejected last year.

Perkins-Hooker said she intends to file the request again, but needed more time to provide documentation for the case. Because the case was dismissed, there is currently no date for the county’s court arguments and no timeline for when the 2017 tax digest may be approved.

The case is related to the authority of the board of commissioners, and whether they had the ability to freeze residential values. Commissioners did so, citing a law from the 1880s that gave their precursors the ability to modify the tax digest, after residents complained about huge increases in their property values. The jumps came after the county for years failed to keep up with rising values.

The dismissal practically guarantees the county will have to ask for a temporary collection order from the courts for the second year in a row to get permission to collect property taxes.

Last year, the need for the order sent local governments’ budgets into disarray. This year, Fulton spokesperson Jessica Corbitt said, the request would be made much earlier.

In 2017, property values on average increased 13 percent in the county, before the freeze. Thursday, the county Board of Assessors approved residential values that are an average of 11 percent higher than those original values in Atlanta, and an average of 19 percent higher in the rest of the county.