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31 August 2017

South Fulton Picks Fight with Neighboring City Over Land and Tax Dollars

The new City of South Fulton needs to balance its checkbook. But local leaders are learning start-up costs don't mirror numbers that said South Fulton could form without a tax increase.

A search is on for more money. That quest now has South Fulton eyeing land and tax dollars in Union City they say belongs to them.

South Fulton City Council members approved legal action against their neighbor on August 30, 2017.

At issue is 125 acres annexed by Union City last year. South Fulton contends the annexation was illegal, and they point to a recent Georgia Supreme Court decision to support their case.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey invalidated several Atlanta annexations before the November 2016 vote incorporating the City of South Fulton. Judge Dempsey said the annexations were untimely since they came into effect after the July 1, 2016, deadline that locked South Fulton's borders. Atlanta appealed the judgment, but Georgia Supreme Court justices unanimously upheld the lower court ruling.

South Fulton lawyers claim the state Supreme Court opinion also reverses the Union City annexation because the move took place around the same time as the contested Atlanta annexations.

"Right now, we're trying to kind of work it out with the cities to reach an agreement where those properties come back into South Fulton, considering the Supreme Court's decision," a staff attorney told officials. "The declaratory judgment action would ask that the court declare the annexations from Union City improper."

The disputed property, located at 5355 Hunter Road, carries a value of $2.9 million. Public records show the property yielded $13,431.64 in taxes to South Fulton while the area remained unincorporated.

Against the backdrop of a tight budget and possible tax increases, every penny counts. District 3 representative Helen Zenobia Willis admitted as much during her questions to city staff.

"If successful, how far can we go back and reclaim our tax revenue dollars that we didn't get," Willis asked.

South Fulton City Manager Ruth Jones replied, later in the meeting, "We would not be due any back taxes because we were not a city."