by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
ATLANTA - Fulton County commissioners got an earful from taxpayers Wednesday as they continue to debate a proposed property tax hike, the first of its kind in more than 20 years.
Commission Chairman John Eaves told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik declining revenues and increased costs have left the county with between a $40 million to $50 million budget shortfall.
“We need to provide services to the million residents of our county,” he said. “These are libraries. These are senior services, youth services, Grady Hospital.”
To plug the hole, the county manager has proposed a 17 percent property tax hike, which equates to about $140 more per year in taxes for a $275,000 piece of property.
Eaves said he’s tasked county managers to find other revenue ahead of next week’s vote, which he said could lower the tax increase.
Commissioners will hold two more public hearings ahead of next Wednesday’s vote.
“Our backs are against the wall,” he said.
North Fulton Commissioner Liz Hausmann said she opposes any hike.
“There haven’t been the wholesale reductions required to make that gap up, so I do think we’ll see some sort of increase,” she said. “I hope it’ll be short lived if we do have an increase.”
Hausmann said she understands why her constituents adamantly oppose the tax increase.
“In north Fulton County where we have 42 percent of the population north of Atlanta, 45 percent of the taxes are collected, we receive 11 percent of the services,” she said.
Johns Creek resident Bob Gray warned commissioners that raising taxes will only embolden supporters of plans for north Fulton County to secede to create a Milton County.
“In north Fulton, where I live, we have always felt over-taxed, under-represented and underserved,” he said.
But College Park’s Kip Carr said the proposed tax hike isn’t a “North versus South” issue.
“I don’t care if you live near Old Alabama or Old National, if you’re anywhere near Fulton Industrial area, or Moreland Avenue, 17 percent at one shot, I think is unsustainable to the citizen’s pocket book,” he said. “We need no tax increase.”