FULTON — Property taxes in Fulton are set to decrease, albeit marginally, for the first time in nearly a decade following the approval this week of the city’s 2021 budget.
The $16.9 million spending plan carries a tax rate of $20.47 per $1,000 of assessed value, down less than 1 percent from the $20.50 per $1,000 of the city’s past three budget years. Under the plan, a property valued at $100,000 would pay $2,047, down from $2,050 in recent years, and provide a savings of about $2 to $3 on city property tax bills.
The slight tax decrease comes after Fulton officials held tax rates steady the past four years, with the last property tax hike increasing rates by a little more than 4 percent in 2016. City officials said the earliest versions of the 2021 budget carried a double-digit tax increase, which was slashed over the course of at least a half-dozen meetings to the current tax cut.
Fulton Mayor Deana Michaels said the tax cut is an indication the city is moving in a new, positive direction, and noted though the actual savings are small, it is a start to putting the city on the right path.
“These are baby steps toward a larger goal,” the mayor said. “We have to be very deliberate in each action we take and not be afraid to take our time to do it right... Fulton will not get back on track overnight, but one day at a time we will see results that will add up to bigger wins for us all.”
The Fulton Common Council held two separate public hearings on the spending and revenue proposal, the second coming after a late decrease to the city’s full taxable value bumped what would have been a 0.69 percent tax increase to nearly 1 percent. Michaels called the nearly 1 percent increase “unacceptable,” and asked department heads and councilors to make further changes and create a plan that would cut taxes.
Michaels called the 2021 adopted budget, which ultimately cut taxes by a modest 0.13 percent, “a well thought out plan” that showcases “responsible spending and necessary cuts,” adding the spending and revenue plan includes changes to the way the city does business that were promised from day one.
“This is the first time in nearly 10 years that the city of Fulton has seen a tax decrease of any kind,” Michaels said, adding the cut is “in large part due to the voice of the community being heard.”
The mayor, city councilors and department heads spent a significant amount of time and effort throughout the budget process this year, according to Michaels, who called it a “long, hard-fought” process. Michaels said the city officials made some “tough decisions” when crafting the budget, and the line-by-line approach to reviewing spending and revenues resulted in positive changes.
“The fact we can deliver a slight decrease, I think, is a testament to all that hard work,” the mayor said.
Total spending in the city’s 2021 tentative budget proposal is estimated at $16,893,274, a $57,274 increase from the 2020 spending plan. Revenues are also expected to increase slightly, from $10.04 million to about $10.16 million, leaving about $6.8 million to be collected through property taxes.
Public safety spending, which makes up nearly 40 percent of the city’s total spending, is down about 4 percent, from $6.9 million to $6.6 million.
The city’s total assessed value of taxable property dropped for at least the third year in a row, falling from about $335 to $332 million in the current year. Fulton has lost more than $5 million in assessed property value since 2018, and the remaining taxpayers are forced to pick up the tab.
Council President Larry Macner, R-6th Ward, said in light of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is happy to be able to provide a tax decrease.
Macner credited city officials and department heads for a job well done on the budget, noting some of the cuts were likely “painful.” Macner said councilors, department heads and the mayor met several different times and each time shaved a little more off the city’s spending.
“You have to feel like meat butchers, cutting fat off and trimming it down until there’s nothing left to get us to the budget that we passed,” Macner said to department heads, thanking them for their efforts after the budget vote.
The $20.47 per $1,000 of assessed value excludes school and county taxes and other fees, such as sewer, water and garbage, in the city.
City officials said there are no changes to the sewer, water and garbage fees for the coming year.