District 2 At-Large Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts says a proposal to increase the county’s homestead tax exemption would be “devastating.”

Pitts attended the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting on Feb. 7 and addressed several pieces of legislation being introduced in the state General Assembly this year.

The proposals target different aspects of county government. One moves the county to an employment system that would make it easier to fire workers. Another changes the makeup of the county’s library board.

Pitts said he was most worried about the homestead tax exemption bill, which would increase the exemption from $30,000 to $60,000. Estimates vary on the impact, but Pitts said it would cut $50 million out of the county’s budget.

“What would I cut out, if the county had $50 million less?” Pitts asked. “The lawyers will complain now about the court system, not enough employees, not enough this. Do you cut the district attorney’s office? Do you cut the jail, which is heavy [with] personnel? What do you cut?

“You close libraries? You shorten the hours? You take another $5 million or so from Grady Hospital? That’s going to be devastating for Grady. What happens if Grady can’t accommodate all of the people that they now accommodate? Where will those people go? I can tell you where they’re going. They’re going to Piedmont and Northside (hospitals), because they can’t turn them away.”

Pitts said Milton County is on the “back burner,” but the north Fulton state legislative delegation has introduced bills that would re-establish Milton, which was absorbed into Fulton during the Depression.

On Feb. 11, Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, speaker pro tem of the House, reintroduced legislation to create Milton County, an idea that so far hasn’t appeared likely to pass numerous legal hurdles. Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, and other representatives also introduced similar bills.

Milton County would be comprised of cities in north Fulton County, leaving Fulton with Atlanta and communities in the southern part of the county.

“We are committed to a more accountable county government that satisfactorily performs only the services that are necessary and no more,” Jones said in a press release. “I believe significant reform of Fulton County this year and a continued push to recreate Milton County will deliver it.”

As a constitutional amendment, the resolution needs a two-thirds majority vote in the state House and Senate before it could be placed on the ballot for a statewide vote, the press release says.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com