County commissioners have not taken a position on the ballot question, said Jessica Corbitt, a spokesperson for the county. But earlier this year, Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts sent Deal a letter, urging him to sign the legislation that the governor vetoed. In it, Pitts said he believed putting Fulton Industrial into the new city “would strengthen” South Fulton and was in the best interest of the county.
A spokesperson for Atlanta did not respond to a request for comment about the district, but Melissa Mullinax, then a senior advisor to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, said in March that the city’s preference is that the southern portion of the district go to South Fulton, while the northern portion go to Atlanta.
“The interests of the entire community would be better served by collaborative discussion between the City of Atlanta, the City of South Fulton and the Fulton Industrial District stakeholders as to how municipal services could best be provided in that area,” she said in a statement.
South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards said he favors the restriction on annexation being lifted — but only if voters agreed.
“That’s where it should be, it should be at the ballot box,” he said. “I want it lifted, that’s my goal. But let’s not play politics.”
Edwards accused Atlanta of being “greedy” in trying to annex the district, when it has projects like the Gulch that could bring in additional tax revenue. He added that if Atlanta is successful in annexing the area, the county school system would suffer because of lost tax revenue.
It’s unclear if that would happen. The constitutional amendment also prohibits Fulton County from levying school taxes within the boundaries of Atlanta Public Schools, but that provision would also be repealed if the vote passes. The issue over school tax levies in the district would likely have to be settled by the courts.
Kaye Burwell, who argued on behalf of Fulton County, said county residents, not Atlanta’s mayor, should decide the area’s future.
“From the city’s point of view, I think it makes sense to lift the cap and allow Fulton Industrial to be included in the city limits,” said Odie Donald, the South Fulton city manager. “It’s a no-brainer for Fulton Industrial to come into the city.”
The ballot question:
Shall the Act be approved which repeals the amendment to the Constitution of Georgia creating within Fulton County the Fulton County Industrial District and prohibiting the governing authority of Fulton County from levying any tax for educational purposes within the boundaries of an independent school system?