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14 February 2014

Pro-City Feasibility Study Confirms South Fulton Pays 2013 Taxes for 2007 Levels of Service

Last December, a Georgia Unfiltered analysis of Fulton County budget documents showed that unincorporated south Fulton paid some of the highest taxes in the county.

A comparison between south Fulton taxes and taxes in nearby cities show the south Fulton millage rate (12.469) is higher than millage rates [in parentheses] in Atlanta (10.240), Chattahoochee Hills (10.958), Fairburn (9.98), Palmetto (8.50), and Union City (10.598). The property tax rates in unincorporated south Fulton and the five other cities mentioned above pay for services like police, fire, zoning and planning, parks and recreation, environment and community development, and public works.

Between 2008 and 2013, the unincorporated south Fulton property tax rate went from 5.659 to 12.469.

Fulton County, in its annual budget book, has said the tax increases were mainly due to lower property values in unincorporated south Fulton and the need to maintain the same level of service as in the previous year. In other words, unincorporated south Fulton County residents are paying 2013 taxes for 2007 levels of service; and a feasibility study released by a group lobbying for south Fulton to become a city appears to confirm that fact.

South Fulton United, the pro-city group led by perennial state House candidate Benny Crane, says the city of South Fulton can stand on its own two feet financially. However, a review of the South Fulton United-sponsored study shows spending on police and fire currently lag behind Department of Community Affairs (DCA) averages.

Police is the highest expenditure category for the low and high DCA averages with spending from $219-$246 per capita. The SSD currently spends less than the average amount at $174 per capita. For fire, the DCA average is about $170 for both low and high averages; the SSD currently spends $160 per capita. For highways and streets the DCA city average is roughly $80 per capita for both low and high averages. In FY2012, Fulton County spent $50 per capita in the SSD, considerably below the DCA averages.

Additionally, the study says, "Residents of the new City of South Fulton may be satisfied with current quality of police and fire service and highway and street maintenance that Fulton County provides for them. However, it seems likely that residents of the new City of South Fulton would choose to spend a similar amount as other Fulton County cities."

Bringing police, fire, parks and recreation, and road spending up to DCA averages could easily eat up a projected $17,480,707 surplus.

House Bill 704, the legislation authorizing a referendum on the proposed city of South Fulton, currently sits in the House Governmental Affairs Committee.