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Fulton County Update from Commissioner Ellis
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WORKING TO IMPROVE THE TAX ASSESSMENT PROCESS
Let's breathe new life into the Board of Assessors
 
Improving Fulton County’s historically challenged tax assessment process has been and remains a focus for me as the problems date as far back as 2013 and continue today.

While the Board of Commissioners does not manage the assessment operation, it has taken an aggressive posture to drive improvement and changes. A key to ensuring that occurs is to select experienced and engaged candidates who will take action on the Fulton County Board of Assessors, a five-member board that governs the assessment process and to whom the Chief Appraiser of Fulton County directly reports. 

These members have staggered four-year terms and there are certain geographical requirements that must be met to ensure balanced representation across the County.  All members of the Board of Assessors who were in service during the challenged 2017 tax year have since been replaced with the exception of one. That remaining representative, a designee for the North Fulton County area, has a term that expires in Jun 2019. 

Given the challenges of the past and the fact that the current remaining representative has been on the Board of Assessors for the past 12 years, I believe firmly that it is time to appoint a new representative for North Fulton County. I have nominated a highly qualified individual, Ken Zdrok, who has extensive knowledge and many years of direct work experience in the field of property taxation. In addition to my support, he has the backing of Commissioners Liz Hausmann and Lee Morris whose districts comprise all or a portion of the Northern geography.  Additionally, Mr. Zdrok has received letters of support from all of the Mayors representing North Fulton Cities as well as several city council members and citizens. 

In short, his approval should be a slam dunk and no-brainer. Instead, Chairman Robb Pitts has sought to block his appointment and retain the current representative.  We have now had two votes on Mr. Zdrok’s nomination. Both failed due to the lack of four affirmative votes with three Commissioners voting to approve (Ellis, Hausmann, Morris) and one not to approve (Pitts).  Two other Commissioners (Hall, Arrington) did not cast votes. Commissioner Darnell was not present at the meetings where these votes took place. 

Mr. Zdrok’s nomination will come forward again for a final vote on April 10, 2019.  I am hopeful the citizens of North Fulton and their elected representatives’ desire for new and improved representation on the Board of Assessors will be respected by the Commission and Mr. Zdrok’s appointment approved.   If not, it will sadly signify that the voices of over 35 percent of Fulton County residents were ignored by the majority of the County Commission.
 
I advocate for Mr. Zdrok's appointment, as I reflect on the recent key challenges the Fulton Tax Assessor's Office has faced:
  • A failed 2013 tax digest that resulted in the County having to enter into a Consent Decree with the State Department of Revenue
  • A failure to plan for and spend approximately $3 million in appropriated funding from the Board of Commissioners in 2015 and 2016 which was designated for technology and other improvements focused on improving the Tax Assessment process.  
  • A variety of whistleblower complaints related to assessment practices and employment issues in late 2016 leading to the Board of Commissioners requesting that the State Department of Revenue conduct a performance review.  Not surprisingly, the results of that review, released in 2018, revealed a number of troublesome findings.
  • 2017 tax assessment fiasco in which citizens were blindsided with skyrocketing assessment notices. The increases were partially due to the failure (for a multi-year period of time) of the Board of Assessors to keep assessments in line with increasing property values. The assessments were approved by the Board of Assessors with little to no review and were riddled with errors and inaccuracies. Those assessments were later revoked and created an unprecedented level of challenge for the County and all taxing jurisdictions (cities and schools).
  • Class Action litigation brought against all cities, schools and the county in 2018 alleging that Fulton County Assessors engaged in improper assessment practices in 2016 via a process deemed “sales chasing.”
  • Allegations stemming from a citizen review and WSB analysis that commercial properties in the county, specifically Atlanta, are being routinely undervalued relative to residential properties. This has prompted an audit now being conducted in Fulton and Atlanta.
These are just a few of the challenges the County has faced and it's time to take action. We need a fresh face on the Board of Assessors, who will bring a new and thoughtful perspective to the table. Residents need someone who can help them better understand the assessment process, address their concerns and answer their questions. That person is Ken Zdrok. I hope my colleagues on the Board of Commissioners will vote "yes" on his nomination.
 
Sincerely,
Bob

 
Commissioner Bob Ellis
Contact:
Bob.Ellis@FultonCountyGA.gov
Office: 404.612.8216

Fulton Co. Gov. Center
141 Pryor Street, Suite 10024
Atlanta, Ga. 30303



 
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