By now, you have likely had a chance to review your 2021 property tax assessment. I have received several inquiries from residents concerned about the large increase in assessed value. Below you will find information that will help you better understand your assessment and decide if you would like to file an appeal.
There has been much attention to rising crime rates and the extensive case backlog in our court system due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Fulton County is addressing these concerns and working with our justice partners to outline our next steps and provide the necessary financial backing.
Finally, COVID-19 continues to impact our communities. We are pleased that we recently made great strides in administering the vaccine and seen a reduction in the number of cases and deaths. However, cases are again climbing, and there is new concern over the spread of the Delta strain.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR 2021 PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT
There is good news and bad news, when it comes to 2021 property tax assessments. The hot residential real estate market has pushed values up and has led some to question their assessment. Your increased value may or may not be an accurate reflection of the property's fair market value but given the market dynamics of the past 18 months, it may very well be.
Floating Homestead Exemptions
The good news is that those with residential homestead exemptions receive 'floating homestead exemptions' that protect property owners from being hit with a large tax bill regardless of their assessment. In short, as your top line appraised value goes up, the amount of your homestead exemption will also grow, so that the amount of your net taxable value can grow only at a certain amount (generally the rate of inflation).
You will see your floating homestead on your particular assessment in the homestead exemption column. There, you will see your Fulton Operating exemption (Fulton County portion), your school district exemption and your individual city's exemption. These exemptions offset the increase in property taxes and assure your bill will not skyrocket. As many of you will recall, getting these protective measures in place for homeowners was a big focus for me, and I am pleased to see that these 'floating homestead exemptions' that were put in place a few years ago are working as intended.
A reminder, your assessment is NOT a tax bill. The numbers you see on your notice are an estimate of the taxes you may pay. You will receive an actual tax bill after the County, cities and school systems set their millage rate in the weeks ahead.
The Fulton County Board of Commissioners recently agreed to lower last year's millage rate of 9.776 to a 2021 millage rate of no more than 9.33. The lower rate is consistent with Fulton County's record of strong fiscal management. The final vote will come later this year.
You can offer your input on the millage rate at a public hearing on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 at 10 am. For details go to www.fultoncountyga.gov.
Other Things to Note in Reviewing Your Assessment
Several North Fulton cities, including Milton, Roswell and Alpharetta administer their own taxes and exemptions, so the assessment you received will not accurately reflect the total exemption to which you are entitled. Once you see your actual city tax bill, you should see increases in the exemption values and your actual city tax bill will be lower than what you see in the estimated city taxes listed on your assessment.
I urge you to carefully review your 2020 assessment to be sure you're again receiving the Homestead Exemptions you're entitled to in 2021. Our 2021 HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION GUIDE is very helpful.
Property Tax Appeals
Should you appeal, win and your appraised value is reduced, you will also see your various exemption amounts that have increased as a result of increased appraised value proportionately reduced. Certainly, if you feel that your home is appraised at a 100% value (or any value) that is too high, you should consider appealing to ensure it is at the correct value. However, I want to point out that a successful appeal which reduces your appraised value is not likely to make a significant difference in your ultimate property tax billing.
If you believe your property has been assessed incorrectly, you can appeal by the date printed on your assessment notice. For most property owners in Fulton, the deadline to file an appeal is August 5, 2021. If your appeal has not been resolved when tax bills are mailed, you must pay the temporary bill to avoid penalties and fees. Once your appeal is resolved, the tax bill will be recalculated based on the final value.Learn more about the APPEAL PROCESS, find an appeal form or file online.
CRIME & COURTS
In addition to the obvious effects on health, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on many of our County services, including our court systems. Court operations have been severely curtailed and that has delayed the prosecution of cases and jury trials. I applaud all of our Fulton County justice partners for the creative ways they have managed to keep the wheels of justice moving on some level, while also minimizing the impact of COVID. Despite their tireless and commendable efforts, we have a court backlog in Fulton that continues to grow.
The increasing backlog, coupled with the spike in crime that we have seen particularly in the City of Atlanta, is very concerning. These are both complicated problems that all areas of government -- cities, counties and the state -- must play a role in addressing. While both counties and cities each have police and court functions, the overweighting business of day-to-day policing in Fulton County generally resides with the individual cities and the County plays the most significant role when it comes to court operations.
At our last Board of Commissioner's meeting, we approved an additional $75 million to fund a plan referred to as Project ORCA. This is a specific plan developed by our management team and all of the County's justice partners. The supplemental funding is coming from the roughly $200 million awarded to Fulton as part of the most recent federal COVID relief package -- known as the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
Project ORCA is the centerpiece of our allocation plan, as the Commission has made crime and the court backlog its top priority. The project is aggressive and challenging, and we all know that money alone won't solve these problems. Criminals need to be charged, jailed and effectively prosecuted. Juries need to be seated and trials must resume. Rhetoric and funding can have an impact, but ultimately it will take coordinated work on all levels. I'm encouraged by the efforts and focus of all of Fulton's justice partners to meet these challenges.
As we are all aware, COVID-19 continues to evolve and impact us in various ways. Cases are on the rise and there are new and growing concerns over the 'Delta Variant' that health experts say is highly contagious.
All cities in Fulton County continue to have incident rates well below the '100' threshold but the 7-day positive test rate has just moved above the 'good' threshold of 5%.
The rollout of vaccines has clearly been the most effective tool in reducing the impact of COVID. We are proud to say we recently reached a milestone at our North Point Parkway site in Alpharetta, administering the 100,000th vaccine at that location. We marked the special occasion with an event to highlight the importance of getting a vaccine.
Thanks to the efforts of many, more than 52% of Fulton's population has received at least one dose, with more than 46% fully vaccinated. Reviewing the numbers by age group, the data is even more encouraging. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, well over 95% of residents over the age of 65 have been vaccinated.
VACCINATIONS BY AGE GROUP UNDER 65 (as of 7/21/2021)
While vaccines are not the sole answer, their positive impact in dramatically reducing the negative impact of COVID is undeniable. Fulton County's Board of Health will continue its efforts to make the vaccine readily available and reach the unvaccinated. For more information on how to get a vaccine in Fulton County, visit VAX UP FULTON.
If you need more information or have questions, please feel to reach out to me or my staff. We are available to make sure that you are getting the services and response you expect from Fulton County.
Commissioner Bob Ellis firstname.lastname@example.org