Fulton County State Reps File Suit Against Fulton County Commission for Property Tax Rate Increase

August 8, 2014

Fulton County State Reps File Suit Against Fulton County Commission for Property Tax Rate Increase

ATLANTA— Six Fulton County state representatives and one former state representative  announced today that they have filed legal suit to seek a preliminary and permanent injunction against the Fulton County Commission to stop a 17 percent property tax rate increase.  The legislators said that the increase violates measures outlined in House Bill 604, which they sponsored during the 2013 legislative session.

“We regret having to take this action, but the Fulton County Commission voted to increase property taxes contrary to state law and property taxpayers’ best interests.  We’re committed to upholding state law and the Georgia Constitution and protecting Fulton County taxpayers,” said Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, primary author of House Bill 604.

Plaintiffs of the suit are State Representatives Jan Jones (R-Milton), Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell), Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek), Joe Wilkinson (R-Atlanta), Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) and Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and former State Representative Edward Lindsey.

House Bill 604, which became effective on May 6, 2013, limits Fulton County’s authority to increase the county property tax rate prior to January 2015.  The bill also required a super majority vote to increase the property tax rate after January 2015 (five of seven commissioners must vote affirmatively).

Rep. Jones researched legislative history before writing House Bill 604.  The legislation was based upon a 1951 local constitutional amendment that gives the Georgia General Assembly broad authority on the time and place and the amount Fulton County can levy for ad valorem taxes. The amendment was reauthorized by the state legislature in 1987.  The constitutional amendment only affects Fulton County, and the Georgia General Assembly does not have similar authority on ad valorem taxes for other counties.  New local constitutional amendments are no longer allowed by the Georgia constitution, but prior local amendments reauthorized by 1987 remain in effect.  Local constitutional amendments have legal parity with general provisions of the state constitution.

Josh Belinfante, a law partner with Robbins Firm, filed suit on behalf of the plaintiffs in Fulton County Superior Court on August 6, hours after the Fulton County Commission voted 4 – 3 to increase the property tax rate.

Representative Jan Jones represents the citizens of District 47, which includes portions of Fulton County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2002, and currently is the Speaker Pro-Tempore.  She also serves on the Appropriations, Education, Ethics, Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment, and Rules committees.