FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - The Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to "freeze" property tax assessments at the 2016 levels after receiving community backlash for the 2017 rates and increases.
The resolution was proposed by Chairman John Eaves, and brings relief to the more than 360,000 property owners who saw increases in Fulton County.
"Our vote will allow all people, regardless of their zip code, to keep their homes by giving them time to adjust to rising property values over time," said Eaves in a press release sent to FOX 5.
The Fulton County Board of Assessors will have time to re-calculate the 2017 tax digest and will notify taxpayers within 30 days of the new notices.
Fulton County residents voiced their concerns at three emergency town hall meetings and packed other commissioner’s meetings and a state Senate committee hearing. More than 1,000 people signed the Tax-Freeze Petition.
The board that sets property evaluations in Fulton County got an earful.
"There is dagum little communication of important issues to the citizenry," said another outspoken resident.
More than 60,000 properties across the county saw increases in excess of 50 percent.
"Last year I paid $629.39 in property taxes. This year you are asking me to pay $3,414.46," said another in attendance at the meeting.
And for others, the tax struggle is emotional. One woman who owns a small property has seen the impact of large properties constructed around hers.
"It's not a mansion like anything else in the neighborhood," said the woman. "My husband was killed several years ago in an accident. I have wonderful memories of him in that house, and I don't want to have to leave."
Wednesday was the day for which thousands of property owners in Fulton County had been waiting.
"It feels great," said Larry McIntire.
McIntire and his wife Suzy Eskin live in a 50s era brick ranch in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood of Atlanta. They are surrounded by so called McMansions, where developers have town down old homes and replaced them with much larger more expensive homes. Their property taxes jumped more than $10,000 this year after their property valuation came in more than 77 percent higher.
Wednesday afternoon the couple was breathing easier after learning the Fulton County Board of Commissioners had frozen property valuations and taxes at last year's levels.
"We had planned on what it was last year but this is even a little better because it'll be the same as last year," said McIntire.
At its meeting Wednesday and at several public hearings, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners got an earful from frustrated property owners. Many had similar complaints about being caught off guard by spikes in valuations and property taxes.
The board turned to a 1881 law, adopting it unanimously which allowed them to freeze property taxes at 2016 levels.
"This is excellent news for all those tax payers out there out who really have been in a situation of angst. Many of their fears associated with a potentially extreme tax bill that they don't have any means potentially to pay," said Bob Ellis, Vice Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
He said the adoption of the old-new law effects more than three hundred and sixty thousand property owners. Many like Larry McIntire and Suzy Eskin had already prepared their appeals.
Vice Chairman Ellis advised effected property owners to hold on.
"For their existing assessments, appeals that they may have filed already, those are all set aside. Throw them in the trash can don't worry about them," said Ellis.
"We've worked so hard on this appeal," said Suzy Eskin as she held a large folder full of supporting documents the couple was going to use in their appeal of their property taxes.
For now the couple will hang on to their appeal, should they need it later. They said they are satisfied being a part of the many voices that brought about an important change in the financial world of thousands by pushing elected officials to take action.
"In a democratic society, you can actually change things and to put pressure on them and politics is politics and people listen to politics," said McIntire.