The following message from Fulton County Superintendent Jeff Rose was sent to Fulton County staff, students, and parents this evening. More news and views as they develop.
Good Afternoon Staff and Families of Fulton County Schools,
First, I would like to thank you for your support and partnership of the Fulton County School System. I am very fortunate to serve as superintendent of this great district, and we are all extremely proud of the progress our students continue to make.
Over the past week, we have been sharing information about the impact of the Fulton County tax delay on our schools. Tomorrow is an important day for our school system as we, along with Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County Government, ask a judge to issue a Tax Collection Order (TCO) so that tax bills can be mailed to you. If successful, we will still be challenged between now and the new year. However, we will be able to successfully focus our resources on the two priorities I have communicated:
- The daily safety and security of our students
- Honoring our current employees with the compensation they deserve
As we prepare for that hearing tomorrow (which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.), I want to be sure that you have a clear understanding of how we arrived at this point. Earlier this summer, Fulton County Commissioners decided to freeze property assessments at 2016 values after residents complained about a substantial increase in assessments; the decision delayed the process for sending tax bills to residents.
We learned last week that the Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) did not approve the 2017 Fulton County tax digest, which results in a continued delay in Fulton County tax bills being mailed. Our budget is based on 63% of the revenue coming from property taxes, and since we are not receiving the expected revenue to completely fund our budget, there is a significant shortfall to cover payroll and pay our bills.
I do want to be clear that this situation is not through any fault of our own. Fulton County Schools has always prided itself on being a good steward of taxpayer dollars. We have exercised appropriate spending and careful budgeting over the years. We have a Triple A (Aaa) credit rating, which is a prestigious designation that less than 1% of school districts in the country have. We began this school year with $295 million in cash reserves, which between these dollars and our monthly state allotment has sustained us. Keep in mind, it takes $85 million ($70 million in people) a month to fully fund our school system.
We have created a special webpage, www.fultonschools.org/en/fcmitigation, to share information. On this site, you will find a Q&A to answer many of your questions, information from both me and our school board president, and a copy of the motion Fulton County Schools filed to have a judge intervene in this matter.
Please stay tuned to hear the judge’s ruling from tomorrow’s hearing. As we receive information, we will keep you updated.
Thank you for your partnership and support as we deal with this unfortunate situation, and know that we are doing everything we can to fight for what our students, staff and families deserve.
Jeff Rose, Ed.D.