School is back in session for students in the Fulton County Schools System. (FCS/Facebook)

An attempt by several Fulton County School Board members to reduce the school district’s property tax rate failed, but the approved millage rate is still lower than first proposed by staff.

The tentative 17.24 millage rate presented in May was the same as the 2022 tax year, But Superintendent Mike Looney presented the lower millage rate for the board’s approval on Aug. 10.

The school district had to advertise a tax increase because assessments and new properties increased the value of the county’s tax digest. As a result, the same millage rate would bring in more revenue.

A motion by board member Kristin McCabe to lower the millage rate even more, down to 17.04 mills, failed on a 3-3 vote. It would have cut taxes collected for the school district by $5 million.

“Now some might say that we should sock away this tax surplus for a rainy-day fund. But we already have funds set aside per board policy. In fact, we have more than what board policy dictates which puts us in a great position to help our taxpayers,” McCabe said.

She asked the board to give back as much as possible to residents who struggle with the day-to-day cost of living caused by inflation.

“I don’t want us to roll it back so far that we have to roll it up at some point because that will be devastating to our community,” board member Franchesca Warren said.

Board member Katha Stuart said the school district has great momentum and she wants it to continue, but it might cause some unknown expenses.

“We already know that we need to find a way to pay for the literacy coaches once the current funding runs out. … We only get what our local fair share will be. There’s always the increased employee benefit cost,” she said.

Lowering the millage rate to 17.14 keeps it as the lowest millage rate in the metro area, she said.

Johns Creek resident Gibran Green was the only person to offer public comment during the Aug. 10 public hearing before the vote. He described how record inflation was affecting families before asking for a greater reduction in property taxes.

“Raising our property taxes will dramatically affect not only our payment on our property but rent as well. And I feel that it can dramatically help the students in the parents with their supplies with their tutoring with their sports with all academic values if the millage rate could be dramatically rolled back as much as realistically possible,” Gibran Green, a Johns Creek resident, told the board during the public hearing.

After the amendment for a bigger decrease in the millage rate, the original motion to approve the 17.14 millage rate was approved unanimously by the board.

This story has been corrected to show the amount of cut taxes had Kristin McCabe’s motion passed the board.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.