Tuesday, July 25, 2023–11:51 a.m.
-John Bailey, Rome News-Tribune-
Rome City Commissioners approved reducing the millage rate Monday, then launched into a contentious hour-long debate over the proposed SPLOST package.
The board dropped the millage rate by 2.3% to lessen the impact of property tax assessment hikes. However, most residents will likely see an increase in their property taxes for 2023.
The combined millage rate for the city and Rome school system is 26.450. The rollback rate — an estimate of what the millage rate should be to keep revenues flat — is 24.674.
The rate is made up of three funding sources: city maintenance and operations, capital tax and school maintenance and operations. The city commission reduced the city M&O rate from 8 mills to 7.8 mills and the capital tax from 1.826 mills to 1.8 mills.
The city school system reduced its M&O rate from 17.25 mills to 16.85 mills. Overall that equates to the 2.3% reduction from 27.05 mills to 26.45 mills.
Under that scenario, a person with a $150,000 home whose property value remains the same will see a reduction of $37 on their tax bill, Rome City Manager Sammy Rich said, minus any exemptions.
But that isn’t likely, as property tax assessments have increased overall — in some cases dramatically.
Also on Monday, Commissioner Bill Collins worked to block an intergovernmental agreement with Floyd County regarding SPLOST proceeds, arguing that the city isn’t getting its fair share.
Commissioners initially deadlocked, 4-4, with Collins, Bonny Askew, Mark Cochran, and Elaina Beeman voting against and Randy Quick, Craig McDaniel, Jim Bojo, and Jamie Doss voting for the agreement.
That turned it over to Mayor Sundai Stevenson, who eventually voted in favor.
But not before Collins pressed her to vote no. The agreement is the same as previous ones with the exception of overages. Should there be revenue above the cap, those overages will be split among the city, county, and Cave Spring following the SPLOST distribution formula.
Collins also brought up his proposals for a water park and sewer service for the Chulio Hills subdivision. Both were his pet projects and neither was included on the list of SPLOST projects to go before voters in November.
Although Collins voiced disappointment, he wasn’t clear what he wanted done about it. He questioned Rich about the SPLOST vote and his role in the process but made no suggestion.
“I’m advocating for all the kids, but for me, it seems as though when you throw out the opportunity that all kids could take a part of… some of those kids don’t get to participate,” Collins said.
Commissioner Craig McDaniel, who is White, told Collins the SPLOST projects aren’t just for Blacks or Whites or Hispanics and the list of projects would benefit everyone. He stated that it’s a quality-of-life issue.
“I don’t think anyone has discriminated against anybody,” McDaniel said. “I don’t think anybody has been left out.”
“You, you probably could never understand what I’m talking about, because you’re not in my cultural arena,” said Collins, who is Black.
The discussion began to get heated and Doss attempted to intervene but was halted by Mayor Stevenson. The conversation then wound down and Rich pointed out that passing a SPLOST agreement is a requirement.
“We need to be united on some of this, whatever way we do this,” Collins said.
Cochran then weighed in, stating that he feels the county had gotten the lion’s share of the SPLOST projects and it seems like the city is OK with getting less.
No wonder the citizens are confused. We say one thing and do another,” Cochran said, adding that he wouldn’t support the SPLOST.
The extended debate continued well past 9 p.m., until Stevenson said, “We have to be bigger than this. We have to be concerned with everybody… I want every citizen, no matter what you look like, to have the same rights everybody else has.”
She then voted yes to pass the agreement.
“You can be mad at me but I will do the best thing for the City of Rome,” Stevenson said.
This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at northwestgeorgianews.com.