Fulton County property owners will not be billed a second time for 2017 property taxes. A DeKalb County Superior Court judge ruled the county was within its rights when it froze most residential property values at 2016 levels. Commercial values were not included in the tax freeze.
Judge Alan Harvey granted the county's petition for mandamus, which requires the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) to approve Fulton's digest.
In his ruling, Harvey said the decision by the DOR to reject the county’s tax digest was a “gross abuse of discretion.” He added that the request for Fulton to rebill property owners would “damage the rights of the taxpayers whom the DOR purportedly seeks to protect.”
The court decision doesn’t seem to address the fact that commercial property values were not rolled back. Analysts say this lack of uniformity may be addressed in appeals on a case-by-case basis.
Unless the DOR appeals, this will conclude the 2017 digest question. Assuming that the 2018 digest is approved, the effective taxable values on homestead properties for 2019 will roll back to the 2016 values plus inflation. This should create a substantial drop in residential taxes, requiring municipalities to review their tax rates for 2019.
The Department of Revenue will perform a previously scheduled in-depth review of Fulton County’s tax digest in 2019. The review, which happens every three years, may give the DOR another opportunity to request changes, if state officials are displeased with the way Fulton has operated. In the last three reviews, the Revenue Department only conditionally approved the tax digests due to various issues with Fulton County’s assessments.