New commissioners eye Fulton County budget

Bob Ellis

Bob Ellis

Bob Ellis and Lee Morris won’t become Fulton County commissioners until January. But they’re already looking for ways to cut spending and reduce taxes.

The newly elected Republicans attended a series of recent hearings at which Fulton department heads made their 2015 budget pitches.

“It was reminiscent of my time on the (Atlanta) City Council, when departments would always come to us and tell us they needed a whole lot more money or the sky would fall,” Morris said.

Though they haven’t crafted specific proposals, the newcomers believe there are opportunities to trim administrative costs.

“I do think there are still opportunities for savings in the way we administer and run the county,” Ellis said. “I think there are inefficiencies there and a lack of collaboration.”

Both men have criticized the county’s recent 17 percent tax increase. They concede they may not have the votes to repeal it next year (Republicans missed a chance to gain a commission majority on Election Day). But Ellis said they might convince their colleagues to roll back the rate somewhat next year to offset rising property values.

“I think we’ll see values go up,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to roll that millage rate back as well.”

In the meantime, the newcomers want to avert another tax increase and pass a budget that doesn’t rely on reserve funds to balance the bottom line.

Chairman John Eaves and the county staff are expected to unveil a proposed 2015 budget as soon as next week. Read more about what it might contain in Sunday’s AJC.