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Opinion: Fulton County should do better by its taxpayers

Fulton County isn’t inspiring confidence in taxpayers when it comes to the collection of taxes.

A recent lawsuit claims the county missed a crucial deadline to notify home owners who appealed their property appraisals of when Fulton was legally required to complete the appeals. The appraisals determine taxes.

It’s a complicated process, but 42,000 property owners appealed assessments. Now the lawsuit says the lower property values should be honored for last year’s tax bills.

The county had no comment.

The attorney who filed the suit says the county might owe property owners as much $20 million.

Another lawsuit claims appraisers matched some new home buyers’ property values to the prices they paid for their houses, but left neighbors’ values unchanged. One estimate says that could cost the county $36 million. Fulton filed a motion to dismiss that suit.

The county settled last month a lawsuit by the state Department of Revenue. Commissioners used a law from the 1880s to freeze property values after residents complained about increases. The county agreed not to use the law again; the state agreed not to force residents to pay more.

All this while Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand uses Georgia’s antiquated laws to earn $490,000, more than the President or Georgia’s governor. County tax commissioners in Georgia can legally contract with cities to collect their taxes and charge a fee for the service, as Ferdinand does. (Tax assessors, who decide the value of property, are a separate county office.)

Changing Ferdinand’s lucrative setup would require the Georgia Legislature to change the law, which the county should ask it to do.

Fulton County should be working for its citizens.

The Editorial Board.

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