The 2017 SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee is slated to meet Thursday — its first public session since voters approved the $63.8 million special purpose, local option sales tax package.
Floyd County Clerk Erin Elrod said the meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at the fire department headquarters, 409 E. 12th St., and should last about an hour.
"It's basically a recap, and a little bit of a celebration," she said.
The package of projects vetted by the committee passed with 60.73 percent of the vote in November.
SPLOST committee members talked up the projects at churches, club meetings and other gatherings, and a campaign committee formed to advocate for the package spent more than $7,000 in the run-up to the election.
Rome/Floyd Citizens for Progress reported taking in donations totaling $14,925 and spending $7,242 as of Oct. 23. The next financial disclosure report is due to the State Ethics Commission Dec. 31.
Nearly all of the iteized expenses — $6,792 went to Rome-based High-Tech Signs and Ad Specialties for the signs that saturated the county. The organization also spent $450 for a booth at the Coosa Valley Fair.
Major donors, at $2,500 each, were Brian Moore, Wes Walraven, State Mutual Insurance Co. and the Rome Braves.
The package contains $2 million for improvements to State Mutual Stadium, where the Braves play. Former General Manager Mike Dunn told the SPLOST advisory committee the baseball organization intends to participate in the improvements but did not offer specifics.
The team just wrapped up its 14th season at the stadium. Its contract with the county runs 18 years with options for extensions.
Citizens for Better Parks, the fundraising arm for Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation, contributed $1,000 to the SPLOST advocacy group, as did Profile Extrusion's committee, Profile Welfare Association of Rome.
There's a little over $2 million for various recreation projects in the package.
The biggest earmark, $8 million for an agricultural center, drew support in the form of $500 donations from the Cattlemen's Association and Floyd County Young Farmers. Darlington School and David Newby, who chaired the advisory committee, also contributed $500 each.
Frank Barron and Dr. Paul Ferguson each donated $250 to the advocacy group.
The Floyd County Board of Education was provided an update on a revised promotion/retention policy that would have criteria, such as assessments, as the basis for schools deciding whether a student passes a grade or must repeat it.
At the end of last school year, the board had called for a change in the policy, to remove a degree of leeway principals and teachers have in making these decisions. The board felt it necessary for them to have more explicit direction on the matter, said Floyd County Schools Superintendent John Jackson.
This policy would establish criteria, such as Georgia Milestones scores, Lexile reading levels and benchmark assessments, within guidelines that would be the basis for deciding promotion or retention, Jackson said.
"We want to put more teeth in it so students know that these Milestones scores mean something," he said.
The policy mainly concerns elementary and middle schools, since the number of credits high school students have is the determining factor in promotion or retention, Jackson said.
The system is aiming to implement the policy before the next school year. However, officials are still working to finalize the revised policy, something they wish to have done by March, to ensure parents are aware of the change, Jackson said. They have sought the input of principals, and want to present it to the Local School Governance Teams.
Jennifer White, a system math specialist who presented on what has been done on the policy, said students in kindergarten to second grade would be on a more case-by-case basis, while decisions for third grade through eighth grade would be based on the guidelines.
In action items, the board approved a resolution to phase out Pepperell Middle School. The system essentially is indicating to the state Department of Education a new school will be built and it won't ask for any funding for the current school again. This will set them up to maximize state capital outlay funding for a new school, as it creates a funding need, Jackson said.
A second resolution was approved concerning the declaring of election results from Nov. 7 that saw the passage of an extension of the education local option sales tax. The system can now move forward in the process of taking out bonds to get their projects going.
A revision to school properties disposal procedures also went before the board on first reading. The change in language allows the system to transfer property to a separate government entity, something it didn't allow for before.
Revising the policy came from the Floyd County Coroner's Office request to acquire the freezer at the closed Midway School and use it in the new morgue for storing bodies.
Before the meeting finished, board member Melinda Strickland made a motion to amend the system's charter "to incorporate the elements/guidelines of the Fair Dismissal Act that gives the right of certified employees to appeal decisions from the local level to the Georgia Department of Education."
No other board member seconded the motion. Strickland said it is her promise to teachers that as a board member she will push for it to be reinstated in the system.
Today's artwork is by Brantley Cordle, a fourth-grader at Pepperell Elementary School.
Would you like to be a Today's Young Artist?
Bring a color drawing by the newsroom at 305 E. Sixth Ave. or email high-resolution, full-size scans to HKoon@RN-T.com. Make sure to include the local child's name and school as well as contact information in case there are any questions.
A new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks Floyd County fifth in Northwest Georgia in average weekly wages for the second quarter of 2017.
Pickens County led the way with an average weekly wage of $837, followed by Whitfield at $808, Bartow at $794, Haralson at $792 and Floyd County at $785.
Statewide, the average weekly wage during the second quarter was $956, 21.7 percent above the average of any county in Northwest Georgia.
In Floyd County, the average weekly wage for the second quarter, the months of April, May and June, has increased each of the last 10 years, up 26.1 percent over the $620 weekly wage during the second quarter of 2007.
"We want to see it continue to increase," said Rome Floyd Chamber President Al Hodge. "We want Rome and Floyd County residents to have their wages and fringe benefits continue to grow."
The rate of growth over the past decade ranked Floyd County third in the region, behind Pickens, where second quarter wages grew at a rate of 43.3 percent, and Haralson County, which was up 35.1 percent.
Bruce Jones, professor of economics at Georgia Highlands College, said the rapid rate of growth in Pickens and Haralson counties may be additional evidence of people who work in Atlanta opting to live further out in the country. "They may be moving out that far, and as long as they have an interstate there, they will commute further," Jones said. Pickens is a straight shot up Interstate 575, while Haralson County offers direct access on Interstate 20. Jones explained that while commuters may face the routine commute hassles, they generally do not have the levels of day-to-day traffic congestion around their homes as they would living closer in to the metropolitan area.
Hodge said more people are actually traveling into Floyd County to work than are leaving the county. "We want to see that continue as well." Hodge said.