by Jason Wright / Appen Newspapers
MILTON-- City Council had a little spring in its step July 7 after learning that Fulton County had given the city the more than $4.1 million in Special Service District funds.The money comes from taxes paid by North Fulton residents for county services before incorporation or annexation. Johns Creek will receive $2.85 million, while Alpharetta and Roswell will receive $336,899 and $220,778, respectively.
"It's not every Monday you get a $4 million check for the city," quipped Councilwoman Karen Thurman at Monday's council meeting.There is a problem, however, said City Manager Billy Beckett. According to numbers given to Milton by Fulton County in August 2007, the city should have had more than $5.3 million in the bank, he said. Beckett said he's currently drafting a letter to Fulton County Manager Zachary Williams to learn why there was an administrative decision to adjust the amount."I like documentation outlining their methodology," said Beckett.According to a May 30 memorandum from Patrick O'Connor, Fulton County's Finance director, the total given to Milton was "excluding... known liabilites such as the Providence Park clean up costs."
Providence Park, located in Milton but still owned by Fulton, has been closed since January 2004 for groundwater cleanup. The park remains closed until reopening is OK'd by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which could take until 2010, according to Angela Parker, director of the Fulton County Department of Public Works.Beckett said he'd heard a rumor that is why the check didn't match the original amount, and felt it wasn't fair given Milton doesn't own the park."I feel it's not appropriate to penalize us for something known to the county since 2004," he said.
Council has not gotten together to discuss what to do with the money yet, but Beckett said he would suggest single-time costs like a tanker truck for fire protection, land purchases for parks, intersection improvements and funding the state-mandated operating reserve.Thurman said the money came at a time when it was "very much needed" given Milton's funding crunch to try and pay for better services than residents' received prior to incorporation. Council is aware of that distinction thanks to a citizen survey sent out in March. However, that same survey indicated overwhelmingly that taxes should not be increased."If we could get about three times that [$4.1 million], it would be great," said Thurman.