Tax hike could be on the way to pay for new Fulton County Jail

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners has signaled it may raise property taxes to help pay for the construction of a new jail, by advertising a limit to how much they may be able to raise taxes this year.

"Oh, it’s disheartening, to say the least," said Fulton County homeowner Tony Ellis when asked how he feels about the county’s proposed property tax increase.

He just moved to Fulton County two years ago and says his family is still reeling from higher mortgage rates and inflation

"To raise it in this market? In this climate? I think it does say something to the taxpayers that’s not good at all… this isn’t what we need right now," Ellis said.

Another Fulton County homeowner Sandhya Venkatachalm says while she also doesn’t like the idea of higher taxes, she’s happy with the services she gets in Fulton County.

So she doesn’t mind too much as long as it’s for a good reason.

"If it is for the betterment of the society and for the uplifting and the security of the society, I think we as responsible citizens should definitely bear that cost," Venkatachalm said.

Fulton County commissioners are hoping a new jail is a good enough reason.

At their meeting Wednesday, commissioners voted to cap a potential tax increase at 9.27 mills.

Compared to the current rate of 8.87 mills, that would amount to an about 4.5% increase in people’s property taxes there.

Last year the commission actually voted to lower the millage rate from 9.33 mills.

The final vote to set the millage rate will happen in mid-August.

With the rise in home values there, the county government would have enough to cover existing expenses at the current millage rate.

So, county staff has recommended that the difference in funds go to start paying for the construction of the new jail.

"The idea of building a new jail that will cost anywhere from 1.6 billion to $2 billion, that has created some additional pressures on the budget," said Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts.

County staff told commissioners design costs alone for the new jail could total around $100 million over the next two years.

So, it’s something they said the commission should start paying for now.

"You know, we kicked the can down the road on some of the big issues like the jail and we are at the end of that road. There is no further place to kick the can," said Fulton County Commissioner Dana Barrett.

Most of the commissioners agree a new jail is needed.

But some think there may be other ways to pay for it besides raising property taxes.

"I question whether or not we can’t begin to bank some funding through some other measures as opposed to an increase in the millage rate," said Fulton County Commissioner Bob Ellis.

There will be three public hearings on the proposed millage rate increase. Two will be held on August 6 and then on the night of the commission meeting on August 16.