Robb Pitts, chairman of the Fulton County commission, signs a settlement agreement during a press conference at the Fulton County Government Center in Atlanta on Monday, July 22, 2019. Fulton County held a press conference to discuss their recent settlement with the Georgia Department of Revenue. The settlement was related to a proposal that could have caused homeowners to pay extra taxes because of frozen 2017 property values. (Christina R. Matacotta/AJC)
Photo: Christina R. Matacotta/AJC
Photo: Christina R. Matacotta/AJC

Fulton County gets permission to send tax bills, but no date set

Fulton County on Friday received permission from a local judge to collect taxes for 2019, the third year in a row the government has had to go to court for permission to send tax bills.

The temporary collection order will let Fulton Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand send bills before the state Department of Revenue approves the county’s tax digest. Until a settlement with the state last month, the county had not had its tax digest approved since 2016.

Ferdinand said Wednesday he did not know when tax bills will be sent, but the order would keep the process moving more quickly.

Not waiting for the tax digest to be approved would help prevent governments like the Atlanta Public Schools from having to borrow more money to fund operations, Ferdinand said.

APS earlier this month said it could borrow up to $120 million to cover its expenses because of delays with tax bills.

Fulton County commissioners this week passed a 3 percent decrease in the tax rate that is the revenue-neutral rollback. The county expects to collect around $520 million in taxes this year.

Robb Pitts, the Fulton County commission chairman, cautioned that the county would need to begin belt-tightening measures, despite growth. Fulton spends more money than it takes in, he said, and depends on reserves to cover the balance.

But Pitts said the chances of a recession are high, and the county still has outstanding lawsuits regarding the taxes it collected in previous years that could cost the government millions of dollars.

“We may be looking at some more difficult days in the future,” Pitts said. “No one’s going to be interested in a property tax increase.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.