By: Laura-Jane Hatcher (WRGA News)
For a 3rd consecutive year, the City of Rome is operating on a surplus, City Manager John Bennett revealed at Monday’s commission meeting.
The name of the game in government is to take in more than you spend, Bennett said in his State of The City address to commissioners. To deal with a drop in revenues coupled with the economic recession, the city has slashed its spending each year, which has kept numbers in the positive since 2010.
But, Bennett’s address wasn’t all good news---New building permits are down dramatically, from 155 in 2002 to a shocking 14 permits issued in 2012. Construction is driven by growth, Bennett claims, and to make Rome more attractive to businesses that would grow the local economy, accessibility to I-75, namely the 411 Connector, is a must.
“In the last 40-50 years of the United States, the economic development has gravitated towards the interstates,” Bennett says. “I think for us to continue to be a viable candidate for industrial development, we really need to have both the 1-40 and the 411 connectors. The 1-40 is great for development in that area, but for South Floyd County and West Floyd County, that access to the 411 connector is going to be very, very important.”
In his address, Bennett also listed the many successful projects Rome has seen coming to fruition this year, like the new Emergency Operations Center and the 800 MHz Radio System. And, there’s more to come in 2013 too with the development of the West 3rd Marriott, and a possible recreational park coming to the long-abandoned General Electric property.
After illustrating the city’s successful budget, Bennett announced his support for a penny-tax that would take over the SPLOST that will end on June 1st, citing Rome’s need to remain competitive to the area. According to him, all of the counties adjacent to Floyd currently have a long-term SPLOST to fulfill their various capital needs.
Though many citizens are reluctant to see what they consider to be a ‘new’ tax, Mayor Evie McNiece claims the SPLOST’s renewal is needed to continue Rome’s industrial growth.
“There were so many projects that we were able to develop because of the citizens of Rome putting forth that penny on themselves—--so many great things this city would never have had,” McNiece says. “That’s why it’s important to have it---especially while we’re in the mode of progress. This is just another tool to continue this progress and make us more competitive in the state, so we can attract new business and industry.”
Though there is no exact list of projects set to benefit yet from the proposed tax, plans are already underway to form a citizens SPLOST committee. If all goes well, citizens could be voting on the penny tax as early as November.