The Georgia Legislature may consider carving a new version of Milton County from the portion of Fulton County north of the city of Atlanta.
In our last issue, we asked Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, who supports the creation of the new Milton County, three questions about the proposal. This issue, we’ve asked the same three questions of Fulton County Manager Zachary L. Williams, who opposes the plan.
Here are his answers.
Q. If the Legislature decides to create a new Milton County, should Sandy Springs be included? Why or why not?
A. The Fulton County Board of Commissioners has voted to oppose House Resolution 21, which would create a new Milton County. Furthermore, in the most practical sense, the creation of any new county would not be considered as good stewardship of taxpayers dollars, particularly during these tough economic times.
The state of Georgia is in a financial position where every single dollar counts and the state would have to bear some financial burden to create a new county. The price tag just to the state of Georgia to create New Milton is estimated at $6.3 million in the first year and $3.2 million annually.
Another consideration is that, historically, Milton County, prior to its merger with Fulton in 1932, included only those lands north of the Chattahoochee River in current-day Fulton, with the exception of Roswell, which was part of an independent militia district. Therefore, if the General Assembly were to re-create Milton, it would need to be on the same, or substantially similar, lines as were in effect prior to the merger: only half of Sandy Springs and none of Roswell.
On the southern border, using the natural boundary of the Chattahoochee River rather than an artificial boundary created by years of annexations and incorporations would be consistent with the Old Milton.
Q. What services would Milton County provide to residents of Sandy Springs that the combination of the city and Fulton County does not now offer or could not offer in the future?
A. There are none. Powers of counties are generally set forth in the Georgia Constitution and state statutes (unlike the situation with cities, whose powers are primarily set forth in their individual charters). Fulton County is granted by the state powers granted to all counties and these powers are equal to any powers the new Milton County would have.
Fulton County has a proven track record in providing the services that it is responsible for such as the Dorothy Benson Senior Multipurpose facility, the Arts Center, the Public Health facility, and the myriad of services provided at the soon to be renovated North Service Center.
Q. If legislators do consider creating a new Milton County, should any weight be given to the effect the change would have on Fulton County or the city of Atlanta?
A. Absolutely. There will be 479,054 people working in Atlanta and the residual portion of South Fulton if Milton is created. They represent 21 percent of the jobs in the Atlanta region (roughly one in five) and 12 percent of all jobs in the state of Georgia (roughly one in eight). The majority of the businesses in Fulton are located in what will remain of Fulton County if Milton County is created.
The creation of a new Milton County could impact property taxes on 12 percent of the state’s job base. Both citizens and businesses would be economically disenfranchised. As an additional challenge, the creation of new Milton County would have a direct impact on business development and tourism regionally and statewide.
This would have a deleterious effect on tourism centered around the city of Atlanta, home of the state’s Capitol; Hartsfield-Jackson, the world’s busiest airport; the Georgia Dome, Philips Arena, the Georgia World Congress Center, and the Georgia Aquarium, and other businesses that rely on the public image of the city of Atlanta and Fulton County to attract national conferences, events and businesses.