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Fulton County tax system recovering from ransomware attack, property values soar | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand visits a self-service tag kiosk in Buckhead at its opening. (Fulton County)

The Fulton County School Board got an update on tax collections and property values from county officials who have been hampered recently by the cyber attack on Fulton County’s data servers.

“I just came out of one of the remittance status meetings. And the county chairman just announced that we did not pay any ransom. And I will tell you that we are almost back to normal, we are probably 75 percent back to normal,” Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand told the school board at its last meeting.

A countdown clock for a ransomware payment resurfaced on a website by the LockBit hacker group after Ferdinand visited the school board at its meeting last week, but the deadline passed on Feb. 29 with no release of data.

Going forward, Fulton County’s tax system will be hosted in the cloud, he said. He said normally it takes about six to eight months to transfer the system, but the county is doing it in about two weeks.

“Fortunately for us, before we were hacked, we had collected most of the money and so nobody was harmed,” Ferdinand said. “We have continued to collect money.”

The backlog of checks were to be posted and the county should soon be able to take payments by credit card again online, he said.

Ferdinand said that as of Jan. 31, its tax collection status was 96.52%. He said the county has collected $701.6 million out of the $727 million due in tax collections for Fulton County Schools.

Final collections for the previous tax year (2022) reached 99.5%. Tax collections for the previous two years reached 99.84%, he said.

Personal property market value rises

Chief Tax Appraiser Roderick Conley said the market value of personal property in Fulton County reached $217 billion in 2023. That was an increase from $173.3 billion in 2020.

The market value in the Sandy Springs tax district reached $25.7 billion in 2023. Out of all cities in Fulton County, only Atlanta had a higher market value at $106 billion.

The assessed value increased as a result, reaching $86.8 billion in 2023. That was an increase of $17.5 billion since the 2020 tax year.

Conley’s report said 2023 was a seller’s market with an increase in sales in most areas of the county. Approximately 40,000 sales were conducted throughout the county.

“However, it appears that the market is showing signs of slowing only as it relates to the number of sales transactions,” Conley said. He said estimates are that staff will review 32,000 sales this year as compared to 40,000 in 2023.

Almost 1,600 of the total 3,400 residential neighborhoods in the county required market adjustments, according to Conley’s report. Almost 3,000 new homes and incomplete construction were added to the tax digest, with most of the new construction in the north and south regions of the county due to the availability of undeveloped large-acre tracts in those areas.

Sandy Springs recorded $159.7 million in new residential construction. Atlanta recorded $751 million in residential new construction or about 45 percent of the total.

For commercial and industrial new construction, Sandy Springs trails at tenth out of all tax districts in Fulton County. Atlanta led with $3 billion in new construction, with Roswell next ($125.2 million) and Alpharetta third ($119.7 million) in new commercial construction.

Next were Palmetto, Fulton Industrial, Fairburn, Union City, Johns Creek, and College Park.

The personal property digest increased overall by 13% from tax year 2022 to tax year 2023. Conley’s report said that this was largely due to increased inventory and equipment of manufacturing companies.

The number of aircraft increased by 14% due to enhanced discovery efforts. This resulted in a $330 million increase in value.

The field review project for 2023 focused on malls and shopping centers, which put another 103 businesses on the digest, with an estimated total value of $19.5 million.

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