Fulton County taxpayers can anticipate a reduction of 0.18 mills from their 2017 millage rate this year, but not all members of the board of commissioners are happy about it.
‘We heard a message from taxpayers all over the county that the tax bills they received included assessment increases that were just too much to bear,” Fulton Commission Chair Robb Pitts said in a news release. “We are responsible for heading off the steep increases those residents faced and ensuring no reduction in services to citizens.”
At Wednesday's meeting at the county government complex in downtown Atlanta, the commission voted 4-3 to have a millage rate of 10.20 mills, a decrease from last year’s 10.38 mills.
In addition to District 5 Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr., who made the motion to approve the 10.20 millage rate, other commissioners voting for the measure were Pitts, Natalie Hall (District 4) and Emma Darnell (District 6).
Commissioners Lee Morris (District 3), Bob Ellis (District 2) and Liz Hausmann (District 1) were opposed. They wanted the millage rate set at 9.77 mills. The meeting came immediately after the last of three state-mandated public hearings on the millage rate.
Pitts said the board’s decision on the reduced millage rate “ensures citizens they need not worry about the county demonstrating fiscal restraint and confronting the initial ‘sticker shock’ in their tax notices.”
In a statement regarding the board’s vote, Hall said, “After hearing from constituents about the huge tax increases they saw on their assessments, we wanted to respond on their behalf and decrease the burden. Today’s vote demonstrated our commitment to serve our constituents by reducing what they owe on their 2018 property taxes and to continue to decrease the financial burden on our constituents by having the taxes remain steady going forward.”
However, Morris said the action taken at the commission meeting regarding the millage rate constitutes a lie to Fulton’s taxpayers.
He explained that when the commission voted to advertise the three required public hearings on the millage rate in an earlier meeting, the commission voted 6-0 to set the millage rate no higher than was necessary to yield the revenue needed to meet the county’s budget, which the commission had approved the previous January.
“We did not know what that millage rate would be at that time because we were going to set it this month,” Morris said. “However, we had made that pledge unanimously to Fulton County taxpayers, but we didn’t come through for our taxpayers.”
Asked how he felt about the approved 10.20 millage rate, Ellis said he was “mean and ornery” about it.
“I made a motion on the floor that we adopted a millage rate of 9.77 mills, and then Commissioner Arrington made the substitute motion to have the millage at 10.20 mills, and that was narrowly approved by a 4-3 vote,” he said. “This vote was counter to what we said we were going to do in that earlier meeting, which was we were going to set a millage rate that was only enough to cover the 2018 budget and that was definitely not what we did today.”
The commission also adopted a bond fund millage rate of 0.23 mills, a reduction of 0.02 mills. The bond fund provides continued support of the library referendum general obligation bonds’ annual debt service requirement, which was approved by Fulton voters in 2008.
“Another positive of what has been approved is that it provides guidelines for spending over the next several years,” Pitts said. “This should give us a roadmap going forward that seeks to keep control on costs.”
Phone and email messages to Arrington and Hall seeking comment on the millage rate were not returned at press time.