What Could Be Happen This Year in South Fulton County, GA
Another year has passed and now we look forward to 2016. What’s on the horizon? Annexations? Cityhood? More taxes? Who knows? All are unanswered questions in the opening hours and days of the new year.
What is known is that Unincorporated South Fulton remains an attractive place to live, work and play. If it wasn’t we would be leaving in droves. The community continues to grow. New development although slow is starting to show up.
State Rep. Roger Bruce (D-61st) has prefiled HB27 the bill to incorporate a City of South Fulton going into the 2016 Georgia Legislative session with co-signers Virgil Fludd (D-64th) and Ronnie Mabra (D-63rd). Yes, we are going to take another bite at that apple. What does this all mean? Simpy creating a city out of the remaining areas of unincorporated South Fulton County. That includes Fulton Industrial Boulevard as well although it will be taken up in another piece of legislation. Folks will have to vote to approve or deny the city as was done in DeKalb last year. The difference is South Fulton has been paying for municipal services for almost ten years now without any help.
Currently, unincorporated South Fulton is under assault for lack of a better word from Atlanta and Union City. Atlanta wants Sandtown and Loch Lomond, but based on the time it has taken to get the required signatures that effort seemed stalled. They started last spring by the way. The biggest impediment to those annexations have been the schools. Under current law if Atlanta annexes the schools in Sandtown (Randolph ES and Sandtown MS) they will become a part of Atlanta Public Schools. By the way Atlanta sued to overturn the law and lost. The move would displace more than 1,800 students that don’t live in Sandtown or Loch Lomond, but are zoned for those schools. The result would overcrowd other Fulton County Schools in South Fulton.
Union City on the other hand is grabbing land to increase it’s property tax base. Union City can’t sustain itself because a lot of the property there is owned by senior citizens who receive substantial tax relief, thus the city must find other properties to offset the loss of revenue. Union City 2015 millage rate is 15.692 compared to 11.579 in unincorporated South Fulton. Union City had a $17 million 2015 budget while South Fulton had a $50 million budget ($48 M in revenue, $2 M from reserves). Union City is not the only city eating away at unincorporated South Fulton. Chattahoochee Hills has taken in some 4,000 acres and thank goodness the land is mostly vacant because it appears the small hamlet can’t provide adequate fire or police protection at this time. South Fulton lost almost $1 million in revenue due to annexations in 2015.
As those annexations continue the likely hood of the millage rate increasing is high. Becoming a city is the only way to stop the millage rate creep.
Time and again people say South Fulton doesn’t have enough commercial development to sustain a city. The fact is in Georgia the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) is is distributed based on populations between the municipalities and counties. So it does not matter where a tax generating commercial development is located as long it is in Fulton County a City of South Fulton will get a piece of the LOST.
At the moment Fulton County collects the LOST for the County and South Fulton’s portion. The total is around $35 M. $20 M is what would go to a City of South Fulton. Drop the $20 million on top of the $47 million in revenue that’s $67 million!!! Before any more land is siphoned off.
If approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, it’s a matter of voting to incorporate the city and electing a group of public officials of the people’s choosing. There are the naysayers and plenty of them worried about WHO is going to be the mayor and city council. The way I see it is there are a lot of smart people down here so I don’t see that as a problem. It’s more about personalities and not real issues.
What happens to the current Police, Fire Fighters and other staff. As far as I’m concerned NOTHING. A City of South Fulton would purchase all the cars, fire trucks, parks and equipment change the logos and go about her business. I am of the opinion that all of the equipment purchased over the last at eight years should instantly become the property of the City of South Fulton because we paid for them. In addition, an argument can be made that the LOST that we would have been given over the years has more than paid any debts real and/or imagined.
Don’t take my word for any of this. I implore each of you to read the many official documents that are available to you on the web and see the numbers and information for yourself.
THE FINAL REPORT OF THE SENATE ANNEXATION, DEANNEXATION, AND INCORPORATION STUDY COMMITTEE
Fulton County Budget Work Session 12-7-2015
Fulton County Proposed 2016 Budget
Fulton County 2015 Budget in Brief