Board members agreed Wednesday on the city’s four representatives on the 2013 Rome-Floyd SPLOST Citizen Committee. The consensus came during the first day of a two-day planning retreat at WinShape at Berry College.
Mayor Evie McNiece said the thought behind the selections was to include a mix of people that have served on previous SPLOST committees and those who can reach a specific part of the community.
“We really need some people with experience on it,” McNiece said. “The biggest thing we did not have on the last couple of SPLOST committees was someone to rally young people. That’s a lot of voters we’re losing or not educating on projects and what they mean to the community.”
The four selected by the commission were Alvin Jackson, Barbara Beninato, Tripp Bagby and the Rev. David Campbell. Jackson, a local 100 Black Men leader, and Beninato, who is active in the arts, have served on previous groups.
“Alvin is very good about listening and asking the right questions,” McNiece said. “He sees a vision for this city.”
Bagby, the son of former mayor Wright Bagby Jr., was mentioned as being very connected with young people. Campbell is the pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church and an Iraqi War veteran.
The city’s four members will join the six members appointed by the Floyd County Commission and the one representative for Cave Spring to form the SPLOST committee.
Plans are to put a referendum on the November ballot for a new 1-cent special purpose, local option sales tax. Collection for 2009 SPLOST will end June 30.
David Newby, general manager for Profile Extrusion Company in Rome, will serve as the group’s chairman, which is a joint appointment by both the city and county commissions.
Together, the citizens group will work to create a list of projects to be funded by the proposed SPLOST and then submit it for approval by city and county governments.
“It sounds like there is a good mix here and you have to look at that,” Rome Commissioner Sue Lee said of the city representatives.
“The main thing is that once meetings start and things are decided, they have to sell the SPLOST.”
Commissioners said more than a quarter of SPLOST revenue is estimated to come from people who visit Rome and Floyd County.
“We need this money and 30 to 40 percent of it is going to come from outside the county,” Lee said. “From what has been said, it sounds like a good group of people.”
A $32.4 million SPLOST package was put to voters last March but fell short of passing. It wasn’t the first time a SPLOST proposal was defeated by voters.
Discussion Wednesday referred to a rejected 2005 SPLOST package in which most of the same projects were put on the list for a 2006 SPLOST — that passed. The difference: a citizen committee.
“The last time, our SPLOST was so rushed,” McNiece said. “The biggest issue is to get everybody educated on the projects.”
Commissioners also were presented the results of a survey done by city staff that compared the current wages of Rome employees with those of surrounding municipalities.
“This is just to educate our commissioners,” City Manager John Bennett said. “When we talk about salary and benefits, we’re not talking about a lot of high paid individuals. And we have a lot of people who have been with us for a while.”
Out of the 589 full- and part-time employees on the city’s payroll, a little more than half — 293 — make less than $35,000 a year.
When compared to the average minimum salary of surrounding governments, Rome’s employees’ salaries were below normal in every single category.
The biggest difference came in the water and wastewater operator category where the current minimum salary for a Rome employee is $22,200, more than $10,000 below the surveyed minimum salary.
Commissioner Kim Canada encouraged the board to look at how they might be able to increase salaries for city employees.
“That needs to be our No. 1 priority coming out of this meeting,” Commissioner Bill Collins said.
The board and city staff will continue their planning retreat today with discussion scheduled to turn to specific projects to be considered for the upcoming SPLOST package.