Local claims in the Truth-O-Meter spotlight
Even as we look into statewide claims such as an Obama insider working on Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign for governor (False) and a specific number of people killed in attacks at churches (Mostly False), local fact checks can set the AJC Truth-O-Meter into action. Here are the two most recent:
Gwinnett claim falls short
Home values plunged during the Great Recession, drying up property tax revenue for local governments and forcing them to make hard choices about projects and employment.
Gwinnett County is expected to collect $20 million more from property taxes this year but decided to keep its tax rate steady instead of rolling it back, so it could tackle some projects put off during the downturn,
Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash said the county’s "significant" cutbacks in staffing was also a factor in keeping the extra money.
We did the math and found Georgia’s second-largest county had cut 67 jobs between 2008 and 2013, about a 1 percent reduction.
Then we spoke to experts, who questioned whether that reduction could be labeled significant, given staffing cuts of about 18 percent, 15 percent and 4 percent in Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties.
We rated the claim Half True.
Brookhaven overreaches in tax comparison
Next door in DeKalb County, Georgia’s newest city send out mailers to every property owner in Brookhaven, touting tax savings over similarly priced homes in unincorporated DeKalb.
A chart in the mailer showed tax bills down to the penny, with homes worth $200,000 saving city owners $260.84, while homes valued at $500,000 saw savings of $631.28.
The city’s calculations, though, failed to include the tax that all Brookhaven residents must pay to retire the park and library debt borrowed when they were part of the unincorporated county.
Brookhaven also used a wrong estimate on a tax credit given on all county taxes, from collections of a special sales tax. That credit benefits homeowners in the unincorporated area more, because a larger part of their tax bill goes to the county (not a city).
Adding those costs back, and accounting for a slight difference in stormwater fees, reduces the savings to under $50 and $100 a year on those $200,000 and $500,000 homes.
So while the city homeowners are saving on their tax bills, the amounts are far from what the city claimed. We rated the statement Half True.