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Homeowners may see dip in property taxes

After 2-month wait cities now know what they’re worth



NORTH FULTON – Homeowners in North Fulton may see something this fall they haven’t seen in a while – a lower tax bill.

Unless they’ve made major improvements to their property over the past year, residents in Roswell and Alpharetta could at least see the portion of their city and county tax bill drop by a few dollars.

While Fulton County Schools, which accounts for the majority of local property tax bills, has yet to set its tax rate, several other taxing jurisdictions have announced stable or slightly lower tax rates.

Fulton County announced Sept. 6 it is lowering its mill levy by a fraction, and Roswell has already set its tax rate at the same level as last year.

Alpharetta is expected to do the same later this month. Because their fiscal years begin in October, Johns Creek and Milton are finalizing their budgets this month.

The budgeting process for all cities and the school district faced a hurdle this year after Fulton County rescinded 2017 residential property assessments in June and ordered the Assessor’s Office to apply 2016 values.

Generally since assessed values on residential property will remain the same as in 2016 and the overall tax rate may dip, it means homeowners should see a lower taxbill.

In Alpharetta, the budget adopted by the City Council proposes to leave the millage rate at its current 5.750 level through the 2018 fiscal year. The city has maintained that rate since 2009 while increasing its homestead exemption to $40,000, the highest such exemption in Georgia.

Despite the countywide freeze on residential property assessments, new construction in Alpharetta pushed its overall tax digest up by about 3 percent.

That has city leaders breathing a bit easier. Earlier this summer when the City Council adopted its $132 million budget for 2018, they were told tax revenues might fall short by as much as $500,000.

This is about the latest the city has ever set its property tax rate.

“We would typically do it as part of our whole budget process in June,” said Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard. “We got on the hook with the whole county tax assessments situation and the county suddenly deciding to go back to the 2016 assessed rates.”

Drinkard said the city has been waiting for the county to officially release the tax digest, which tells just how much commercial and residential property is worth.

“Until they released that official digest, we couldn’t really establish what the millage rate needed to be,” Drinkard said. “New development came in higher than anticipated.”

Alpharetta’s gross property tax digest for 2016 was $5.237 billion. This year, the county raised it to $5.395 billion.

The additional value will add about $873,000.

That may unfreeze some of the new initiatives the city had set aside because of the budget crunch, Drinkard said.

The council may take a second look at some of those items, such as additional positions in the Fire Marshal’s Office or body cameras for police officers.

The Finance Department is likely to recommend which initiatives can be added when the City Council meets Sept. 18 at the first of three public hearings on adopting the mill levy.

“It’s been one of our more interesting budget years,” Drinkard said. “But because we tend to be conservative in our fiscal forecasting, it was not as challenging as it may have been.”

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