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Fulton County Homeowners Brace For Big Property Tax Increase

Helene Mills, a longtime community advocate in the Old Fourth Ward, and other Fulton County homeowners are bracing for a big increase this year in their property tax bills.
Helene Mills, a longtime community advocate in the Old Fourth Ward, and other Fulton County homeowners are bracing for a big increase this year in their property tax bills.
Credit Stephannie Stokes / WABE

Fulton County is expecting big increases in property tax bills this year, especially within the city of Atlanta. Homeowners are bracing for the impact.

When asked how she’s preparing for the increase, Helene Mills furrows her eyebrows. How can she prepare?

“I don’t work,” Mills said. “I don’t have any rich relatives that would give me the money.”

Mills is over 90 years old. She’s a longtime community advocate. Here in the Old Fourth Ward, there’s a senior center named after her.

But she’s stumped on where she’ll get the money for the coming property tax bill.

“It’s going to be a lot of it,” Mills said. “It was before.”

The value on her house jumped $100,000 in last year’s assessment, to more than $300,000.

That’s before Fulton County’s Commission decided to freeze the values back to 2016 levels.

R.J. Morris, who serves on the Fulton County Board of Assessors, said homeowners like Mills can expect this year’s values to be even higher.

“I’d say about one-third of the people in Atlanta are going to see a greater than 50 percent increase. So you’re talking about some people are going to see 70, 80, 100,” he said.

According to Morris, the hike is so steep because the county failed to keep up with values before. Now, he said, the assessments are finally accurate.

“And so we’re getting the numbers exactly right,” he said. “Sales are just skyrocketing in Atlanta.”

State lawmakers did pass a few bills this year to help Fulton County homeowners handle the spike.

One that only applies to cities in North Fulton would cap the rate at which property taxes can grow at 3 percent. For the city of Atlanta, lawmakers passed legislation that also implements a cap, but only to city property taxes.

Two other bills would raise the homestead exemption for Atlanta Public School taxes, which make up the bulk of Atlanta’s bills, to $50,000. For seniors, the exemption would be higher — $100,000.

All of these changes to property taxes will have to be approved by voters this November. Georgia State professor David Sjoquist has no doubt that they will pass.

“People look at it and say, ‘Oh, this is going to reduce my property taxes. I’m for it,’” he said.

Even if voters approve the measures, the laws wouldn’t go into effect until next year.

So for this year, Helene Mills said she’ll do the only thing she can.

“I’ll fight it,” she said.

That is, she’ll appeal the assessment. Hers and others will be available online after May 22.