Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he does not expect the City will be hurt by the bill Governor Deal signed on May 6, which requires Fulton County to freeze property taxes for two years.
The Mayor told WABE he opposed the bill. But he also sharply criticized the County government for its management of the County jail, saying it’s still overcrowded—and still under a Federal court consent order. He said county officials have done practically nothing about it.
Reed said, “When we arrest individuals, they are frequently immediately released, or released in a very short order–despite the fact that they have been arrested multiple times.”
Reed said the new property tax freeze won’t change that.
“The county doesn’t do anything anyway,” said Reed. “So, the freeze is going to prevent them from not doing anything? They didn’t do anything when there wasn’t a freeze in place.” The Mayor also said Fulton County did not offer Atlanta a fair price for its City Jail when Atlanta’s government moved away from housing its own inmates.
In response, County Commission Chair John Eaves told WABE the county has taken active steps, including diversion programs for non-violent offenders, which he said have brought the jail population down. Eaves said the jail now houses fewer than the limit of 2,500 inmates set out by the Federal consent decree, which was a response to chronic overcrowding at the jail.
Eaves told WABE, “Right now we have approximately 150-160 beds that are empty in our jail, as a result of the diversion efforts that we’ve been placing an emphasis on the last year and a half.” And he insisted there is no compromise on safety.
“Those individuals who are released: they are deemed not a threat to society, and so those who are in the jail are those who we consider a threat to society,” Eaves said.
Eaves has criticized the new property tax freeze law, saying it will hurt the county’s efforts to maintain adequate funding for Grady Hospital. He said he hopes to continue working with the Mayor on the jail. But Eaves said the drop in the inmate population means the county no longer needs to buy the city’s jail.