Fulton County Reduces 2017 Millage Rate
Today, the Board of Commissioners approved the 2017 millage rates for the County's General Fund and Bond Fund. I am pleased to share that the General Fund millage rate was approved at 10.380, down from the 2016 millage rate of 10.450. This marks the third year in a row that the General Fund millage rate was reduced. The Bond Fund millage rate will remain unchanged at 0.250.
The actions of the past few months have been focused on addressing a problematic 2017 residential property assessment process in a way that was most equitable to homeowners. However, I want you to know that discussions have been ongoing with state legislators regarding changes that can be made to our property tax system in Fulton County and potentially throughout the state.
My focus and dialogue with state legislators has centered around three areas: property tax caps for homeowners, potential expanded exemptions for seniors and general reforms of the property tax assessment process.
What does a property tax cap mean to you? Simply put, if your assessment rises, it does not automatically result in a similar increase in your property taxes. There are many cap-like mechanisms that are utilized in different states as well as employed by some local governments in Georgia. In fact, there is such a mechanism in place for the Fulton County government portion of your taxes.
As you are aware, Fulton County has several different taxing entities -- city, school and county government -- which levy property taxes. I firmly believe that each taxing entity should have the same cap mechanisms in place so that homeowners have a degree of assurance that their tax bills cannot increase over a certain percentage amount. We are in the midst of many local elections right now and I would encourage all candidates to be supportive of property tax caps as well. This could be achieved in Fulton County by having floating homestead exemptions in place for all taxing entities to assure that as your assessed value increases, the amount of your homestead exemption would also increase. This would guarantee that your taxable assessed value grows by no greater than a certain percentage.
For these changes to be implemented in Fulton County, state lawmakers will need to introduce legislation in the 2018 session calling for a referendum by the voters for adoption of such for each taxing entity.
Similar to property tax caps, there has also been a great deal of discussion around potential expanded exemptions for senior citizens in Fulton County who, unlike seniors in many other counties, continue to pay schools taxes. Reducing or eliminating the school tax for our seniors would also require state legislation that calls for a referendum by the voters.
Lastly, I think there are opportunities for changes within the property tax assessment process that should be made in Fulton County and potentially within the state. I do feel strongly that we need to have greater oversight that allows us to hold the Fulton County Board of Assessors more accountable. The five-member board will welcome two new members this month, and I am hopeful that these and other changes will help facilitate much-needed improvements within the Fulton County Tax Assessor's Office.