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March 27th, 2010
Jefferson Bean / Staff

Johns Creek City Council Opposes Cap On Property Tax


There's an old political saying, coined by former Louisiana Senator Russell D. Long: "Don't tax him, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree!"

Johns Creek Resident David Kornbluh Speaks Out

By Maggie West / Staff and D. Jefferson Bean / Staff


There's an old political saying, coined by former Louisiana Senator Russell D. Long: "Don't tax him, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree!"


So it now goes in Johns Creek, the city ostensibly created for the sole purpose of controlling the tax dollars they were previously paying in Fulton County when the new municipality was unincorporated. Few residents expected to pay less taxes, but the promise from the city's founding advocates was they wouldn't be paying more. 


"Many homeowners in our area have had thirty to fifty percent increases," declared Johns Creek resident Major Thompson, firing the opening shot in the battle between residents and the city government.


Citing the potential need for increased revenue, the Johns Creek City Council voted on a resolution to oppose Georgia House Resolution HR1 on Monday, March 22. The proposed legislation, which subsequently died in the legislature anyway, would cap property taxes rises to three percent annually, subject to local votes.


Among homeowners, especially those on fixed incomes, the bill enjoys considerable support. In fact, sponsor Rep. Ed Lindsay of Buckhead, has been pushing it since last year.


Summing up his position, Thompson continued: "I respectfully request your support for HR1 … This is very important and very critical to the people."


With a declining economy and price increases reaching new highs, federal and local governments alike continue to increase taxes for revenue. And Johns Creek residents are feeling the pinch along with the rest of the country.

Johns Creek Councilmembers Karen Richardson and Ivan Figueroa Want Cap


BODKER: WE NEED YOUR MONEY


Mayor Mike Bodker explained his opposition: "The presumption is that our digest is going to go down. And simply put, if the digest goes down, the millage rate does not go up. And, in fact, we have less tax revenue that comes in from that, and [property tax] is the only way to make up for it." He continued by stating that he appreciates the comments given, but "the longer I hold my house the less my property taxes will be relative to everyone else around me who repurchases the houses around me. Because every time that house sells that's when the dramatic increase in evaluation occurs.” He thinks holding a house for a long time is no reason for paying less than a neighbor with a comparable house.


TAX CHARTER CHANGE -- BAIT AND SWITCH?


But David Kornbluh, another Johns Creek resident, echoed Thompson's concerns: "I'm a little disappointed and concerned about the trends I've seen the city council take over the last several months. Four years ago, citizens were presented with a city charter that promised it would take half the registered voters to change the tax rates -- about a quarter of the city's population. In December, you all recommended a charter that would give 10 percent of the city a right to change the taxes on everybody. That's something I can't really go along with very well."


He also added: "The removal of the Fulton County cap increased everybody's taxes automatically … What I'd like to see is the cap put back in place to protect us from the taxes that we unfortunately had from the incorporation."

Mayor Mike Bodker Getting Hammered In Opposition To HR 1


But Bodker cautioned against state interference in local affairs. "When the state government starts preempting our ability to locally ordain -- locally legislate -- then what's the point of having the city of Johns Creek?" Ultimately, the council agreed 4-2 with only Councilwoman Karen Richardson and Councilman Ivan Figueroa voting against the resolution to oppose HR1.


Clarifying her opposition to the measure, Richardson cited conversations with the citizens of Johns Creek concerning incorporation and a cap on property taxes: "There was a gap in that transition," she said. "And the people lost their cap. I think we should have restored that cap. And I loathe giving power of local government to the legislature, but the cap was part of the discussion, part of the agreement, that people made to the citizens of Johns Creek."

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