Fulton tax bills finally going in mail

Office has been swamped by thousands of owners protesting valuations

County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand said the date ensures governments will be able to bill and collect before year’s end. The Oct. 15 billing date means Atlanta tax bills should be due about Dec. 1, and others in Fulton, Dec. 15.

Ferdinand’s office bills for Fulton County, two school systems and 14 cities.

The collection dates proposed Wednesday would allow cash-strapped local governments to be able to collect enough money to pay off short-term cash-flow loans before they are due at year’s end.

Atlanta, for example, has $58.5 million in tax anticipation notes to repay by Dec. 31, and it’s awaiting $190 million in property taxes.

“We can live with that,” said Jim Glass, Atlanta’s chief financial officer. “By Dec. 15, we should be able to get in the bulk of our money.”

Taxes are normally billed as soon as early July and due in September or October.

This year, however, Fulton assessors were swamped by about 29,000 property tax returns from homeowners contesting values. They also have gotten more than 8,000 appeals and continue to fight appeals from the 2008 tax year.

At the same time, Ferdinand has been critical of the accuracy of some of the numbers produced by the assessors and refused to bill until all his issues were resolved for more than 350,000 parcels.

County officials have urged him for weeks to go ahead and send bills out for more than 300,000 properties that both camps agree on.

When a county commissioner questioned County Manager Zachary Williams about whether he had discussed sending out bills with Ferdinand, he also asked whether Ferdinand had raised the question of salary increases for his top staff. Williams responded yes.

During a brief news conference Wednesday at the county administration building in Atlanta, Ferdinand denied any link between delaying sending the bills and attempts to get raises for his staff. He said whatever delays happened were for accuracy’s sake.

“It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last, that I’ve held bills up,” Ferdinand said.

The Dec. 15 due date also means that thousands of Fulton property owners will be able to claim a deduction for real estate taxes paid on their federal taxes due early next year.

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