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Atlanta, North Fulton Split On Solutions To Property Taxes

State legislators are looking for long-term solutions to ease the burden of property taxes.
State legislators are looking for long-term solutions to ease the burden of property taxes.
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Lawmakers representing Fulton County at the Georgia State Capitol are figuring out how to ease the burden of property taxes. But changes to homeowners’ bills may depend on whether they live in Atlanta or north Fulton.

The legislative efforts follow outrage from Fulton County homeowners about their assessments last year. The county hadn’t kept up with rising property values. So, all at once, some homeowners saw their bills jump.

The pushback led the county to nix the values altogether and revert back to the 2016 assessments. The county is still defending that decision in court.

Meanwhile, state legislators are looking for long-term solutions.

“We never want anybody to be taxed out of their home,” said state Sen. John Albers (R-District 56), who represents parts of north Fulton.

Albers’ solution is to limit how much property taxes can grow. He’s introduced several bills to do that for his constituents who live in their homes in north Fulton cities, like Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Milton.

“This will put a reasonable and logical three percent cap on that, so they’ll be able to budget as well as the local school systems as the cities as well,” Albers said.

The 3 percent ceilings would start with the 2016 assessments as their base year. Voters would have to approve the caps in referendums.

But Atlanta lawmakers aren’t sold on a limit–especially one tied to the 2016 assessments.

State Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) said property values in Atlanta have changed too much. That kind of cap, she said, would starve the government.

Instead, she said homeowners should get a short period, like five years, to catch up to their home’s new worth.

“People need eventually to get to paying taxes on the full value of their property,” Gardner said.

She said the Atlanta delegation is also considering raising the homestead exemption — meaning those who live in their homes could subtract more from their property tax bill.

The Atlanta legislation is expected soon. Bills affecting north Fulton have already passed the Senate.