County Government

Published on June 21st, 2017 |

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Fulton Commission votes to freeze property values at 2016 levels

(This story has been updated following action by the Fulton County Commssion on Wednesday, June 21.)

Fulton County homeowners will get a break from rising property assessments—at least for 2017—county commissioners decided Wednesday, according to a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Relying on an 1881 law that says they “shall have the power to correct any errors in the tax digest,” commissioners voted unanimously to freeze property values at 2016 levels.

Fulton
commission Chairman John Eaves

The freeze is is a temporary solution commissioners said, but offers relief to residents who were worried that their higher property values would translate into higher taxes this nyear. Nearly a quarter of the county’s more than 317,000 residential parcels received values that were up 50 percent or more.

“I do believe this is a legal, grounded solution,” Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves reportedly said before the vote. “It’s also a moral, grounded solution.”

Homeowners will receive new property assessments in the mail, but probably not until August. The more than 5,000 residents who appealed will have their appeals voided because of the new assessments.

The resolution gives Fulton County Chief Appraiser Dwight Robinson permission to phase in higher values over 2018 and 2019. Members of the Fulton County legislative delegation have also said they plan to consider changes to the assessment and taxing process that could ease the tax burden for residents in the future.

The decision comes after weeks of furor over high assessments. Nearly a quarter of the 318,000 residential parcels in Fulton had assessments that were up 50 percent or more; half were up by at least 20 percent. Local governments had pleaded with the Board of Assessors to reduce the values and rescind the assessments, the AJC reported.

Eaves said the board has the authority to do it because of “an old, obscure law, going back to the 1880s,” before the Board of Commissioners even existed. The commissioners of roads and revenues were precursors, he said, who had the authority to modify the county’s tax digest. And while laws have been updated since that time, Eaves said nothing was passed that negated that ability, according to the AJC report.

Residents have been lobbying for relief from the high values, which Fulton County Chief Appraiser Dwight Robinson were due to Fulton not keeping up with an improving housing market.

Representatives from the Atlanta Public Schools have said keeping last year’s values could be detrimental to the school system. Officials are still hoping for a compromise that will allow the district to collect more tax money, but still offer homeowners some relief.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said last week that freezing Fulton County property values could lead to significant cuts in Atlanta schools. Atlanta Public Schools was counting on an assessment increase of about 6 percent this year.

School officials suggested a compromise such as phasing in higher assessments over time. In return, the board would consider setting a tax rate below last year’s.

–John Schaffner

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