New property tax assessments will be mailed out Friday, Aug. 4 for Fulton County homeowners. This comes more than a month after the Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted to freeze property taxes at 2016 levels.
“We made the bold decision back on June 21," said Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves. “It’s taken about six weeks or so to make sure all the methodology, all the calculations are correct and accurate so the notices that are going out on Aug. 4 will be accurate.”
In May, 11Alive News was the first media outlet to report thousands of Fulton County homeowners were getting hit with double digit property assessment increases. Some homes were assessed at more than 200% over last year’s rates. That translates into massive property tax increases for homeowners.
Senior citizens and residents in gentrified neighborhoods said they were being taxed out of their homes.
“I don’t know why I have to be penalized. I lived in this neighborhood when nobody wanted to come into this neighborhood," said Sonny Letak, an Old Fourth Ward resident. "And now I have to be penalized because people are building nice houses and want to live in this neighborhood? Why don’t you tax them? They’re the ones that want to live here? Why am I being penalized?”
The tax assessment increases affected all parts of Fulton County including Johns Creek, Midtown Atlanta, and Chattahoochee Hills.
After weeks of hearings and town hall meetings where citizens voiced their concerns, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners decided to overrule the Fulton County Board of (Tax) Assessors and rescind the 2017 assessments.
“It wasn’t a perfect scenario but the best case scenario. We realize with the decision we would not satisfy everybody,“ said Eaves.
The Atlanta Public School System was one of the entities not satisfied. Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen told 11Alive News last week that the tax rollback resulted in at least $12 million dollars taken away from this year’s budget.
“Originally we were projecting a 6 percent budget increase, so we also had to put a lot of new programs on the back burner,” Carstarphen said. “This hasn’t put a damper on our back to school efforts, but I have made a commitment to our staff that I’ll make this up to them and make this situation right.”
“On one hand 317,000 homeowners are properly satisified,” said Eaves. “Unfortunately, the Atlanta Public Schools will experience less revenue coming into their coffers for 2017 going into 2018 so they’re going to have to make some adjustments.”
Those adjustments include at least two furlough days for all staffers and the rescinding of raises promised this year.
“The Atlanta Public Schools (APS), like Fulton County or any jurisdiction has the ability to increase the millage rate to offset any sort of reduction of value,” said Eaves. “So despite the criticism I’m receiving and my board is receiving, the fact is the APS still has this tool in their hand to adjust the millage rate to bring in more revenue into their budget.”
Both Carstarphen and Eaves commented on the need for a more permanent fix for Fulton County property assessments. That falls legislators and lawmakers to institute changes to the current assessment system.
“If there’s a silver lining to this challenge we all experienced this summer it’s that there’s certainly a need for various governments who rely on tax collection for their budgets there is a need for us to have better communication, coordination, and better alignment,” said Eaves.
Eaves said the focus now is on working with lawmakers to protect senior citizens and homeowners in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods so they don’t get “taxed out” of their homes.
“We plan to have conversations and coordinate with the state and make recommendations on how we can make this process better in the future,” said Eaves.