'Fulton Co. Is ATM Of The Area'
BY DAVID STOKES
Due to an almost $50 million budget shortfall, commissioners of the Fulton Co. commission board, on June 18, proposing a 17 percent tax increase on personal property, are facing the chagrin of residents who are vowing to "fight like (mad)" to change commissioners' minds prior to the final vote scheduled to take place at next month's meeting, on July 16.
The plan to raise property taxes—the first since 1992—has not only angered Fulton residents, but also brings into question whether such a move can occur after the state Legislature put into effect no such increase could take place without proper approval until 2015. At last week's regular monthly meeting, nevertheless, at the county's Government Center on Pryor St., attendees wavered with anxiety and anger upon commissioners, in a 5-2 vote, moving to proceed with advertising a property tax increase that would raise residents' tax bills by a minimum of $150. "Lord, here we go again," voiced county resident Mary Sheffield, "folks wanting to balance the budget on the backs of poor people." Since last week's meeting, opponents of the proposed increase call it "illegal" while others say, simply, county officials should reign in departmental spending and "leave the poor folk alone," Ms. Sheffield continued to a reporter. "I don't know how much more we can take (with tax increases)," the 45-year northwest Atlanta resident relayed. Nonetheless, commissioners are moving toward the tax hike to not only protect the myriad of services Fulton residents enjoy, but also eliminate the shortfall of $49 million, as well as retain present services as they are. Fulton Co. Chairman John Eaves, Ph.D., indicated during the meeting that new revenue sources are needed to sustain the general $625 million budget. With commissioners requesting departmental budget expenditure reports, some are optimistic that an increase might not be warranted. "Raising property taxes is just but one of several options," Commissioner Bill Edwards indicated to The Inquirer last week. "Fulton Co. is a county with a high demand for services," Edwards continued, noting that MARTA receives $225 million annually, Grady Hospital receives $60 million, as well as seniors services, libraries' allotments and other essentials come from the hundreds of millions allotted each year. "Fulton Co. is the ATM of the metro area," the south Fulton commissioner proclaimed. In the largest county within Georgia, "various expenditures come from Fulton," Edwards says, "because every citizen has the right to enjoy services from within the county they live." Furthermore, Edwards stressed that the tax proposal is a 'just in case' measure that will be undertaken should operating and projected budgets do not match. The option to vote for tax increase must be done, Edwards says, "if, indeed, we need to". Additionally, Edwards relayed that "no state government can tell any county government when, and when not to, raise taxes. That's what we need to go to court for," Edwards proclaimed, alluding to opponents' indicating any increase will be challenged in the courts. The state Legislature's cap of tax increases within Fulton "is nothing but racism," Edwards said. "It's the same 'Destroy Fulton Co. syndrome' that's been in place." Other options for streamlining the county budget include cutting employees, "if necessary," Edwards said, as well as a general hiring freeze altogether. While the proposed tax increase was motioned by Tom Lowe—the longtime commissioner who retires at year's end—all commissioners approved the increase proposal, except Rob Pitts and Liz Hausmann of north Fulton. "There should have been more of a prudent process done with controlling costs, and we wouldn't be in the situation we're in now," Ms. Hausmann stated during the meeting. However, county Finance Director Patrick O'Connor indicated that county debts repayments would go astray without new revenue streams and a tax increase. "We would be in a credit crisis," O'Connor said.
Nonetheless, no matter a possible credit "crisis" or attempting to be "more prudent," the poor "should not have to take on extra loads to help the county out with its checkbook," Ms. Sheffield exclaimed. "We senior citizens should not have to be exploited either on whether to choose between enjoying our recreational centers and suffering by paying higher taxes. We've worked hard to enjoy some rewards; don't punish us with (higher) taxes to pay."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Black Women Leaders Mobilize For Midterm Election
Atlanta, GA—An intergenerational group of Black women leaders from ten counties convened at the Georgia Capitol today to be briefed on findings from the Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network (BWR) report, Black Women in the U.S., 2014, and their factsheet, The Status of Black Women in Georgia. The presentation was followed by a BWR roundtable discussion to focus women on utilizing key findings from the report to engage, motivate and mobilize black women for the Midterm Election in Georgia.
“Today is the beginning of a series of BWR Power of the Sister Vote Organizing Roundtables we plan to host in states to engage Black women across the country,” said Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO National Coalition and convener, BWR. “Black women are a powerhouse in Georgia so it’s only natural that we would kick off in Atlanta,” Campbell said as she presented the report to Georgia State Representative Dee Dawkins-Haigler.
“When Black women get together they get it done,” said Rep. Dawkins-Haigler, chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC), cohost of the briefing. “We’re going to get ourselves together and get to the promised land.”
The BWR Report looks at tragedies and the triumphs surrounding Black Women’s lives across a variety of different indicators and areas of inquiry. The report and local factsheet found that significant progress has been made for Black women since key historical markers, however, there are many areas that remain in need of dire national attention and urgent action. Areas covered in the report include: education, economy, retirement security, labor unions, criminal justice, entrepreneurship, politics, and What’s at Stake in the 2014 Election.
“The Census verified that Black women outvoted every other demographic in 2012. Given that fact, where do we stand? This report gives a quick glimpse at where Black women are today- it’s an organizing tool,” said Campbell. “Black women are a powerful political force and we plan to demonstrate that power by working collaboratively and intentionally across issues to usher in a new set of progressive polices and leaders to champion our cause.”
“Georgia Secretary of States office reports that African American women are the majority registered voters in 147 Georgia cities, 27 counties and 4 congressional districts; yet African American women make $0.62 for every dollar a white male makes and twenty-nine percent (29%) of African American women and girls live in poverty in Georgia.” said Helen Butler, convener, BWR GA and executive director of The Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda. “The issues in these reports speak to Black women who vote. Our job is to get the information to them so they know where we stand and understand the power they have if they get their families to the polls.”
President of Women Flying High, Rita Jackson Samuels adds, “Georgia reflects the good and bad for Black women owned businesses. The good is that in Georgia, Black women own 34% of women-owned firms, that’s 21% higher than the national average.” Jackson Samuels continues, “The Bad is the fact that the state ranks first in the growth in women owned firms, it ranks 21st in revenue, the lowest among the top ten states with the largest growth in women business ownership.”
Felicia Davis, director, Building Green Initiative at Clark Atlanta University pointed out, “It’s a positive that Black women are getting educated and getting better jobs, however, because Black women are more likely to be taking care of family and friends, the US Census reports that single black women have the lowest net worth among all racial and gender groups. The net worth of single white women is $41,500, single white men is $43,800. Black women have a net worth of $100, That’s $100. We have work to do.”
Representative Dee Dawkins-Haigler added that the GLBC will host a series of symposiums across the state to educate women on salient issues that highlight the disparities in African American communities. “This initiative allows policy-makers an opportunity to dialogue with key industry experts and provide information to enhance the quality of life for Black women and their families. Additionally, the GLBC has embarked on a statewide campaign to mobilize communities, specifically targeting Black women, on the importance of voting and the power their vote holds.”
Women participating in briefing included: Commissioner Janie Reid, president Black County Commissioners; GA State Senator Gloria S Butler, vice chair GLBC; Deborah Scott, executive director, Georgia Stand Up; Mayor Evelyn Dixon, Riverdale, GA; GA State Rep. Shelia Jones; and GA Rep. Sandra Scott. The roundtable discussion was co-hosted by: The Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Georgia Coalition of Black Women, Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, 9 to 5 Atlanta, Georgia Stand Up, and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
BWR, an intergenerational women’s policy network of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), stays at the forefront of championing just and equitable public policy on behalf of Black women and girls and promotes health and wellness, economic security, education and global empowerment as key elements for success. For more information or a copy of the report visit www.ncbcp.org.