Crisis creates opportunity

Thanks to the action of the Georgia Legislature, Fulton County will have three new commissioners in 2015, including a new district in North Fulton that brings a better geographic balance to county government.

Our North Fulton citizens have experienced significant growth for decades, but have long been under-represented. For the last 20 years of tremendous growth, there has been only one commissioner north of the Chattahoochee River. The complaint has long been that the balance of services favored the mid and southern end of Fulton, but relied on the positive economic contribution and expanding tax base of the commercial real estate, businesses and high-end home values in the north.

This new commission will change that balance of power and perspective. For the first time in history, there will be equal representation from all areas of Fulton. North Fulton will have more influence on the priorities of county government than ever before. It is time for the petty squabbles between the north and south ends of our county to cease.

For far too long, Fulton has ignored the looming financial crisis we knew was coming, but did little to prepare for. With a $100 million dollar shortfall in the 2014 budget, the answer to the problem seems inevitable: a millage rate increase. The problem with that is the Legislature also enacted a millage rate freeze until the 2015 commission is in place. This proposed millage rate increase sets up another legal challenge the county cannot afford to defend.

Crisis creates opportunity. Fulton must seize this opportunity to modernize and restructure in order to survive.

Decisions need to be made based on best business practices instead of politics. We must support our county manager in making tough decisions that create a new paradigm in county government and seek innovation at every turn. We must demand a balanced budget and ensure mandated services are fully funded, then look to our ROI in other non-mandated services we provide. We must find new ways to partner with all of the 14 cities in Fulton to best serve the citizens we mutually represent. With a more fiscally responsible commission, Fulton will continue to thrive as the economic engine of the Southeast while it protects needed services for our citizens.

As talk remains surrounding the possible re-creation of Milton County, I believe Fulton is worth fixing. I believe in our future and our possibilities. But we must make the right decisions now. Our opportunity is to govern in a manner each citizen can be proud of. The goal is attainable to be the best steward of our tax dollars while providing excellence in the delivery of services for all of Fulton County. I look forward to a more collaborative commission to achieve those goals.

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann represents District 3.

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