Fulton County residents likely will see a millage rate of 9.899 mills when they get their property tax bills next month, a decrease from 10.20 last year.
“It’s based on 2018 (statistics) and where the actual values in the (tax) digest have landed. … We’re able to move the millage rate down faster than last year. … We’re able to fund the debt service for a new animal control shelter,” county CFO Sharon Whitmore said.
At its regular meeting July 10 at Assembly Hall in downtown Atlanta, the Fulton Board of Commissioners voted 5-1 to approve a resolution allowing the advertisement of the proposed 2019 millage rate cap for the general fund at the rollback rate of 9.899 mills. District 5 Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. dissented.
The resolution also calls for advertising the five-year levy history for the general fund, the required public hearing date/information and authorizing the county attorney to petition the Fulton Superior Court to immediately collect the 2019 taxes if needed.
Because the vote was tied to a five-year plan the board approved last year, Arrington said it shouldn’t have to vote again to pass the millage rate again until those five years have ended. He also said the county staff should have recommended a millage rate that was different from the amount previously approved by the board.
“I don’t think that’s right,” Arrington said.
District 3 Commissioner Lee Morris disagreed regarding the five-year plan, saying, “I think the whole concept of locking into a five-year plan is flawed, especially in the political arena. We don’t know who’s going to be on this commission in three or four years.”
Whitmore, who said this year’s millage rate was calculated based on 3% growth in the tax digest and an anticipated 96% tax collection rate, added the resolution on the millage rate had to be approved at that meeting, the board’s only one in July, because time is running out (the next board meeting is Aug. 7).
“The (property tax appraisal) appeals window closes on Aug. 2, so it’s going to be a tight window,” she said.
Arrington asked the county clerk to print out a copy of the information on the board’s 2018 millage rate vote and distribute it to all the commissioners before voting on this year’s rate. Once he got a copy of the document, he said it didn’t have proper identification at the top of the first page, so he didn’t know if it was the right one. Since printing the full document would take more time, the board took a one-hour, six-minute recess for lunch and executive session to give the clerk time to print it out.
After the break, a commissioner asked of the millage rate, “Is it debatable?”
“No, it’s not debatable,” said board Chair Robb Pitts, wanting to speed up the voting process.
Arrington said he needed more time.
“It’s 78 pages. I have not had time to look at 78 pages, debatable or not,” he said.
Shortly after that, the board voted 3-1 to approve the millage rate, but it failed to get the minimum four yes votes needed to pass the measure (Commissioners Morris, Liz Hausmann and Bob Ellis voted for it, Pitts against it and Arrington and Natalie Hall abstained).
So the commissioners discussed the issue more before eventually passing the resolution 5-1. The rate could be approved as early as the Aug. 7 meeting, if the public hearing is held on or before that date.