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South Fulton Taxation

South Fulton Taxation

June 06, 2006

As Tax Commissioner of Fulton County, I take a personal responsibility to ensure fair taxation to all citizens and property owners of the county. I submitted the following letter to the Board of Commissioners in an effort to assist Fulton County taxpayers.

TO: The Board of Commissioners
FROM: Arthur E. Ferdinand
RE: 2006 New Growth in South Fulton
DATE: Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Last week I was approached by the President of the Fulton County School Board, Mrs. Dean, who wanted to affirm the significant new growth in the School District before committing to spending the taxes implied by such extraordinary growth only to find out afterwards that it was in error.

Attachment shows a summary of the data the School Board received from the Tax Assessors for 2006 and a comparison with prior years digest figures. As one can see, tax year 2006 is uncharacteristic of the growth pattern of prior years.

With such extraordinary growth for 2006, I thought it prudent to ask the appraisers to verify their values, but at the same time check the Tax Commissioner's billing file for 2006. As a consequence of this inquiry the Board of Assessors lowered the 2006 growth from $1,831,128,000 to $1,658,632,243 and recertified this lower value to the School Board. Though lower, 2006 still shows extraordinary growth. The Tax Commissioner's billing file confirms this massive growth for 2006. The School Board's Digest includes all Fulton County minus the City of Atlanta data. This means the School Board values includes Unincorporated Fulton County growth as well.

Knowing that the City of Atlanta is enjoying significant new development, and having not seen the same activity in other municipalities, it suggested this growth must be in the unincorporated part of Fulton County. We analyzed our billing file to affirm this observation. Indeed our observation was correct; the growth was in Unincorporated Fulton County. A more detailed analysis of our billing file showed the predominance of the growth was in Unincorporated South Fulton, a total of almost a billion dollars ($962,985,016) of real estate growth, second only to the City of Atlanta. The result of the Tax Commissioner's analysis is shown in the attached table.

In February 2006 the Board of Commissioners took action to raise the millage of South Fulton by 3 mills in compliance with the Schafer amendment, and at the same time created a new tax district for South Fulton. In view of the 2006 billing data, that action might have been premature since there was no prior indication of extraordinary growth based on normal mathematical extrapolation. In fact this growth should have been captured for the 2005 billing season if the Board of Assessors had been more diligent with its work in 2004. The deficit in South Fulton in 2005 was not due to South Fulton not being able to support itself, but more so because the Board of Assessors failed to discover the growth there in 2005. The surge in building permits and housing starts in the region should have been an indication of massive growth.

As a result of the combination of increased millage and significantly more growth than anticipated, Fulton County now stands to have far more revenue available to South Fulton than the cost of the services it plans to provide based on the 2006 budget that was set. This would lead to significant excess fund balances for South Fulton.

One implication of this huge growth in South Fulton is that the revenue available would be of a magnitude to make South Fulton self sufficient as a city without loss of service or having to boost millage rate to create operating revenue. One advantage South Fulton has over the City of Atlanta is that no South Fulton tax revenue is committed to Tax Allocation Districts.

The Board of Commissioners action in February in creating a new Tax District for South Fulton also took away the Governor' homestead tax Credit available to all other homesteaded property owners in Unincorporated Fulton County. This Tax Credit is worth $8,000 in assessed value.

There are several actions the Board of Commissioners might consider for 2006:

  • Reassess the need for a millage increase for South Fulton.
  • Set a lower millage rate than the one advertised for South Fulton.
  • Reassess the need for a new Tax district which deprived South Fulton residents of the Governor's homestead tax credit.
  • Reassess the need to cut services in South Fulton, reinstating some services as the District Commissioner deems necessary for quality of life and safety in the region.
  • Direct the Board of Assessors to rework individualized rollback sheets for Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, and South Fulton for 2006.
  • Direct the Board of Assessors to create individualized consolidation sheets for Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton, and South Fulton for the 2006 digest.

Cc: Mr. Patrick O'Connor
Mr. Thomas C. Andrews

City

Revaluation

Growth

 

Incorporated

Unincorporated

Incorporated

Unincorporated

Atlanta

  $   1,221,459,785

 

  $  3,249,841,719

 

Alpharetta

  $      194,178,121

 

  $     361,357,061

 

College Park

  $        39,866,300

 

  $        39,329,381

 

East Point

  $        39,483,184

 

  $     185,979,472

 

Fairburn

  $        16,079,748

 

  $       95,283,680

 

Hapeville

  $        36,735,100

 

  $       10,357,900

 

Mountain Park

  $              252,100

 

  $          1,519,380

 

Palmetto

  $           2,180,797

 

  $       19,339,676

 

Roswell

  $      199,173,073

 

  $     303,738,333

 

Union City

  $        24,995,278

 

  $     114,931,071

 

South Fulton

 

  $  176,328,152

 

  $    962,985,016

Milton

 

  $     63,788,839

 

  $    407,240,663

Johns Creek

 

  $  242,313,285

 

  $    277,675,071

Sandy Springs

 

  $  259,433,371

 

  $    573,970,617

Total

  $   1,774,403,486

  $  741,863,647

  $  4,381,677,673

  $ 2,221,871,367

Fair Market Values


School Board's Digest Values

(Assessed Values in Thousands)

Year

Reassessment

New Growth

2003

$837,588

$668,999

2004

$572,465

$514,748

2005

$737,176

$407,352

2006

$357,259

$1,831,128


So that's what I wrote to the Board of Commissioners. And in turn, I am happy to report that the Board voted to cut the proposed taxing rate of South Fulton property owners - returning millions of dollars of your money back to you.

Quite frankly, I believe we all should pay taxes, but you should only pay your fair share and not a penny more.