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South Fulton tax hike approved
by Noreen Cochran
July 23, 2013 06:14 PM | 2277 views | 1 1 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
South Fulton property owners may have to pay $20 to $60 more a year in taxes starting with their next tax bill now that the Fulton County Board of Commissioners raised the $45 million special services district fund millage rate by two full mills last week.

The board voted 6-1, with Commissioner Liz Hausmann opposed, to increase the south Fulton millage rate from 10.469 to 12.469.

The fund pays for police, fire, parks and other services in the unincorporated parts of the county.

For the $572 million general fund, the board rolled back the rate from 10.281 to 10.211, again with a 6-1 vote but with Commissioner Robb Pitts opposed.

Another 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Tom Lowe as the dissenter, crushed a potential hospital tax of 1.56 mills, which would have cost most county taxpayers $8 to $9 a month.

Fulton resident Angelic Moore asked the board during the millage rate public hearing to vote against the fee, titled a hospital authority fund and earmarked for Grady Health Systems.

“I call it a tax increase and I oppose it,” she said.

Finance Director Patrick O’Connor said before the vote the inaugural assessment would address a $113 million shortfall in the 2014 budget.

“This will generate around $50 to $60 million more a year in income to the county. These funds will be totally set aside for the hospital fund,” he said. “Currently the hospital is being paid out of the general fund, so this will alleviate the deficit in the general fund by at least $56 million.”

Vice Chair Emma Darnell spoke out against the fee’s allocation and its impact on taxpayers.

“I have been unable to identify any real reason why we should restrict $50 million to any one purpose considering the sensitive financial situation we are in,” she said. “The major concern is that if we believe the people in this county can afford a tax increase this year, we’re not paying attention.”

Chairman John Eaves asked for a vote to keep the 10.281 general fund millage rate the same, but was stopped by County Attorney Larry Ramsey.

Ramsey said it had less to do with the House Bill 604, which prevented the county from raising its millage rate until January 2015, which the board 5-1 repealed with Hausmann opposed, and more to do with sending tax bills out on time.

“If we kept it at 10.281, in the eyes of the law and this is separate from HB 604, that constitutes a tax increase. We would have to have three public hearings,” he said. “Anything above the recommended general fund millage rate, we’d have to re-advertise and have those public hearings.”

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