Edwards: south Fulton tax rate hike not a done deal

Homeowners will get four chances to sound off about a proposed tax rate increase in unincorporated south Fulton County, even though the county is legally required to give them just one chance, that one coming right before the final commission vote.

The decision to go beyond the law's requirements came after an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that, through a quirk in Georgia's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, governments with shrinking revenues can boost tax rates without going through the normal process. Fulton, facing a possible 5 percent decline in the county's taxable properties, was considering doing just that.

While the County Commission voted Wednesday to keep the countywide tax rate at 10.281 mills, it proposed raising the South Fulton Special Services District's additional tax to 8.969 mills, a 0.810 increase. With the county's homestead exemption increasing, the new rate would have the owner of a $200,000 home paying the same rate for the additional tax this year as last year.

But a hike would eat into savings as home values, which determine tax bills, are plunging. It could also mean bigger bills for landlords, business owners and others who aren't covered by the homestead exemption and saw little or no change in their homes' assessed value this year.

South Fulton Commissioner William "Bill" Edwards stressed that the higher tax rate isn't a done deal.

"I want to hear what my people have to say first," he said.

Edwards will host the first three hearings, scheduled for 7 p.m., on Wednesday at Bear Creek Middle School. Other hearings will be held Friday at Langston Hughes High School and July 18 at Westlake High School. The last hearing will be July 21, the date of the final vote, at the Fulton County Government Center.