Our local elected officials ignore taxpayers, power toward big tax increases


When you look at the continued burden on all county taxpayers, the natural question to ask is, “When do the relentless sizable tax increases stop, and how many of us will not be able to afford those continued increases?”

As far as local government goes, the 2024 elections for county officials and 2025 for city officials are pivotal. Citizens have awakened like never before.

The continued approval of large multi-family complexes in Fayetteville is unwanted and will necessitate increased tax revenue for years to come to provide services to the thousands of new, densely packed residents.

Peachtree City has a competency problem. It suddenly discovered $10 million of “maintenance” issues after voters passed the recent Special Purpose Local Option Sale Tax (SPLOST) referendum, which included some lesser priority projects (SPLOST funds can only be used for the list of projects attached to the referendum).

The Kim Learnard administration exhibits budgetary tone deafness, adding new positions, increasing pay, and spending money like it’s on fire while the constituents are cutting back on groceries.

The Fayette County commissioners are acting like they are asleep at the switch. “Responsive” is not a term being used to describe the commissioners these days. Their meetings are packed with red-shirted angry voters demanding accountability.

Sweet success heading for the toilet bowl?

Some of us have lived in Fayette County long enough to remember our county being ranked number one in all the positive statistical categories in Georgia. Likewise, in the last year of my term as mayor, CNN and Money Magazine ranked Peachtree City as the eighth best place to live in the entire United States.

When I met with the Money Magazine people who crunch the data for the best places to live selections, they were amazed at the quality of life bang that Peachtree City could provide for the buck. I would dare say we had the highest quality of life in the most efficient system of any city government in the state.

We had some serious momentum. Well, there have been missteps along the way and those stars have fallen some over the years.

Peachtree City case study

There have been occasional budget shenanigans in the past, like when the Lenox administration created an across-the-board pay increase, added new employee positions, and rolled the millage rate back, handing me a no-win budget my first year in office. That poor behavior happens; it’s not new.

The free-spending administrations of the past 11 years have gone on a spending binge of sorts. Sales tax revenue figures are huge. City fees were increased. With the continual increases, Peachtree City taxes have overtaken the county property taxes.

Peachtree City’s insatiable desire for more tax revenue every year and its poor decision-making are creating a lot of anxiety in the community.

The thought of a property tax millage rate “rollback” never seems to cross the minds of the free-spending bunch. They delight in spending other people’s money and the latest batch of property assessments has people reeling. We knew this was coming (see: https://thecitizen.com/2024/06/03/local-politicians-keep-raising-taxes-to-pay-ever-more-public-workers-ever-higher-wages/).

To the local governments, rolling back the rate of taxation is “losing money” when it should be considered allowing the taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned cash.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to the government, more cash in taxpayers’ hands is much better for the community and it creates more sales and property taxable opportunities for the government in future years.

Let’s look at some numbers. According to Neilsberg, from 2000 to 2022, Peachtree City had an average annual population growth rate of 1.12% per year. Overall, the population grew 24.74% between 2000 and 2022.

The average growth rate for the ten years from 2012 to 2022 was 1.35%. What’s driving the significant tax increases?

For comparison, in 2002, Peachtree City’s population was 32,194. The estimated census population as of July 2023 was 40,000.

The total amount of financial resources available in the fiscal year 2002 was approximately $29.5 million. Just 22 years later, our current fiscal year 2024 budget is $51.4 million, that’s budget and capital improvement plan.

Four of the current city council members campaigned as “conservatives” see: https://thecitizen.com/2024/02/05/where-are-the-conservative-politicians/). We are waiting to see how they respond to the latest potential significant tax increase. Last year, two of those conservatives offered no solutions and said to hike the taxes.

Mayor Kim Learnard is a tax-and-spend, grow government type. She lost all fiduciary credibility when she told the news media that significant staff pay raises, bonuses, and increased pension costs would “not cost the taxpayers a dime” (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/04/10/mayor-misleads-about-cost-of-city-pay-raises/). She did not speak the truth.

They are not accountable

Nearly every government decision costs taxpayers more in taxes. Every new facility, new road, new staff position, each rezoning to higher density residential, and each annexation decision has an associated cost. Those increased costs are in perpetuity.

Have the elected officials figured this out? Do they even care? (See: https://thecitizen.com/2024/06/10/two-categories-of-local-government-officials/)

Astonishingly, let me tell you what we have NOT heard from any of our elected officials across our county: “How can we cut our operations costs, create efficiencies, and reduce the burden on our taxpayers?” I am not sure they know how to do it. They do not even fake it like they care, just more unanimous votes for tax increases.

You will routinely hear elected officials say that some other jurisdiction has a higher millage rate. That’s called dodging the questions.

Sometimes, they say that additional taxes are needed for this project or that maintenance. However, once those needs are met and paid for, your taxes never go back down. They just find something else to spend the increased funding on for the next year, along with another increase on top of it.

Our young adults and our senior citizens are being taxed out of our county.

If you fail to communicate with your elected officials, it is on you.

Act now or suffer more increases

Send an email to your elected officials and demand that they do a “full rollback of the millage rate” to avoid the significant tax increase. It takes 10 minutes.

Everyone in the county pays the county government taxes. Email all the county commissioners at: boardofcommissioners@fayettecountyga.gov.

Peachtree City taxpayers also need to contact the city council at: council@peachtree-city.org.

Fayetteville taxpayers should also contact the city council through the city manager at rgibson@fayetteville-ga.gov and ask that your email be forwarded to the entire city council.

Tyrone taxpayers should also contact the city council through the city manager at bperkins@tyrone.org and ask that your email be forwarded to the entire city council.

The Board of Education has already approved their millage rate and the tax increase. At this point, the only way to avoid the tax increase is to appeal your recent assessment with the Fayette County Board of Assessors (see: https://fayettecountyga.gov/assessors_office/appeals).

Take what you are owed

There are several tax exemptions you can take advantage of if you qualify.

Through Tax Commissioner Kristie King’s office, you can apply for the exemptions offered, including the

• Basic Homestead Exemption, 62-65 Years of Age – Senior Exemption, 65 Years of Age or Older — 50% School Tax Exemption or 100% School Tax Exemption.

• Disabled Person – 50% School Tax Exemption or 100% School Tax Exemption

• Floating Exemption, Disabled Veteran or Widow(er) – Standard Disabled Veterans Exemption or Veterans Exemption with 100% School Tax Exemption.

For more on tax exemptions offered, see: https://www.fayettecountypay.com/exemptions.html.

Tax Commissioner King is an excellent public servant, and her office is ready to assist you.

[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. You can read all his columns by clicking on his photo below.]


  1. Another financial measure to look into is PTC’s large budget reserve (aka “rainy day fund”) which was set at 56.5% in the FY2024 Budget (page 10). Council gave itself a huge spending cushion by keeping the piggy bank stuffed and not rolling back millage rates.

    This reserve is far in excess of the 16.7% (two months of regular city operating expenditures) baseline recommended by the Government Finance Officers’ Association (GFOA). (See Civicfed.org “How Much Fund Balance is Too Much? Not Enough? Just Right?” 12/9/09)

    For comparison, Fayetteville’s policy is to maintain 25% (3 months) of spending in reserve. (See Fayetteville Budget Book FY2022 – – the latest posted – – at page 60.)

    The GFOA expressly cautions against holding 50% (6 months) or more in reserve as excessive. Yet here we are in PTC with a budget “rainy day fund” set at over 6 months of expenses sitting in a city account, when a good amount of it could still be in our hands.

    Council has little incentive to find operating efficiencies or make tough budget decisions when it has such a large reserve to call upon. There is, however, an incentive to spend on nice-to-do but not mission-critical items since the funds are there.

    So next time you drive under the cart bridge over 54 west, ask yourself if we got $530,272 worth of landscaping done there. Or maybe just wait and let the mayor’s proposed $80,000+ Communications Director explain it to us.

  2. Fayette County, as well as FCBOE and the Cities and Towns seem to think they have their own printing presses the way they are spending OUR money. This can’t continue, what happens when Real Estate levels out or drops in value, the Millage rate goes up, because they will just “need to spend “on “important” things & commitment’s! I have no issue with Emergency Service personnel getting raises to make respectable salaries which had been too low for too long, as well as COL raises for employees, hiring should be as a last resort.