More than one county commissioner called the agreement “repugnant,” but still voted to allow Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand to earn a $1-per-parcel fee for collecting taxes in the new city of South Fulton.
Ferdinand, the highest-paid elected official in the state, had refused last month to negotiate on the fee, which is allowed under state law. He earned about $390,000 last year, a total that included $210,281 in $1 fees for collecting taxes in Johns Creek, Sandy Springs and Atlanta. South Fulton has 40,596 taxable parcels, according to the county tax assessor’s office.
Several Fulton County Commissioners were opposed to the fee, but voted in favor of it after a parade of people — including South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards; Rep. Roger Bruce, D-South Fulton; and members of the city council — urged them to allow Ferdinand to collect taxes. Only one commissioner, Liz Hausmann, voted against the agreement.
Commissioner Emma Darnell said she didn’t think it was fair that anyone earn that much money for collecting taxes — and suggested that Ferdinand might consider donating the additional $40,000 he will earn. Fulton County Vice Chairman Bob Ellis said the fact that county commissioners have to approve the agreement between Ferdinand and the city is a “stupid construct.” He said he wished South Fulton had a better agreement.
“My constituents find this morally repugnant, and every time there’s a news article about that, they’re outraged,” Commissioner Lee Morris said. “It is a problem for folks, and I’m going to hear from my constituents about this vote.”
Earlier this year, the Georgia General Assembly eliminated a 50 cent fee that also went to tthe tax cmmissioner ever time he sold a tax lien. Between 2011 and 2015, Ferdinand collected more than $200,000 as a result of that fee. He continued to collect it through July 1, the effective date of the new law.
Bruce said if commissioners did not approve the agreement, the city would not be able to collect the taxes it needs to pay back Fulton County for its services. Joe Carn, a College Park city councilman, said he came to support his neighbors because “if one city is struggling, it’s going to affect the other cities.”
Edwards told commissioners he wanted them to treat the new city the same as they had Johns Creek and Sandy Springs, which also use — and pay for — Ferdinand’s services.
“Our council unanimously approved Dr. Arthur Ferdinand to collect our taxes knowing we would have to pay him for our taxes,” Edwards said. “I’m willing to pay that $1 to get that kind of person in our midst.”
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