“We’re not going to run this place into the ground, ” he said. “We have to keep Grady viable. We have to keep it healthy. It’s concerning to me that the neediest in this community are the ones paying for budget shortfalls.”
Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves said there was a strong possibility “an alternative revenue source” will be found to make up the shortfall — meaning a new tax.
But it’s unclear whether a majority of commissioners will support a new levy. And if they do, it could spark a backlash in the General Assembly, which prohibited Fulton from raising property taxes earlier this year.
State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, doubts Fulton can legally impose a new tax. He thinks the county can balance its budget by other means. “There’s ample funds there,” Willard said. “Twenty-five million dollars is a mere drop in the bucket.”
Fulton and DeKalb counties have long supported Grady’s mission of caring for needy patients. This year, Fulton will contribute $50 million to the hospital’s operations; DeKalb will pitch in $11.2 million.
Eaves proposed a tax last summer to restore Grady funding, but commissioners rejected the proposal, saying it was a bad idea to raise taxes while the economy was still sputtering.
A new tax likely would cause another confrontation between county Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly. The Republicans say Fulton spends too much. Last spring, they passed a series of measures — including a property tax freeze until 2015 — to force Fulton to cut spending.
Willard said Fulton is using the threat of a Grady cut as public relations “leverage.” He said state lawmakers may take additional steps to reshape county government next year. “We’ll have to see what their (tax) scheme is, ” he said.