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01 December 2014

Tax Increases and Firefighter Cuts Proposed for South Fulton in 2015

Santa may be delivering a lump of coal to the stockings of south Fulton County taxpayers' this holiday season.

Fulton County Commissioners are considering tax increases and cuts to essential services in 2015 for south Fulton residents.

According to the FY2015 Budget Book, prepared by the Fulton County Budget Commission, a tax increase of .55 mill is being proposed for the county's last unincorporated area. The tax hike raises south Fulton's millage rate from 12.469 to 13.019.

A Georgia Unfiltered comparison between south Fulton taxes and taxes in nearby cities, shows that the proposed south Fulton millage rate would be higher than millage rates [in parentheses] in Atlanta (10.240), College Park (12.619), Chattahoochee Hills (10.958), Fairburn (9.70), and Palmetto (8.50). The property tax rates in these four cities pay for services like police, fire, zoning and planning, parks and recreation, environment and community development, and public works.

In addition to the proposed tax increase, Fulton County Commissioners are also considering cuts to south Fulton firefighter services.

South Fulton received a SAFER grant from the Department of Homeland Security to fund 28 firefighter positions.

SAFER, or Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response, grants were created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities.

Funding for the SAFER grant awarded to south Fulton ends in December 2014. However, according to county budget documents, enough "residual funds" remain from the grant to maintain the 28 firefighter positions through June 2015.

At that time, "brown outs of fire stations will occur due to low staffing levels.

"Currently, apparatus are staffed with a minimum of three (3) Firefighters per engine," the Fulton County Budget Book reads. "Without SAFER Grant, staffing levels will drop to two (2) persons staffing per engine; thus hampering the ability to adequately provide fire and emergency medical service."

The total budget proposed for south Fulton County in FY2015 includes $47.1 million in revenue and $48.9 million in expenditures, leaving a deficit of $1.8 million.