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Car tax bill to boost county revenue
• But Floyd Tax Commissioner Kevin Payne says a pending change to the statewide software would be an unfunded mandate.

Kevin Payne

The Georgia House is slated to vote today on a change to the motor vehicle tax that's aimed at capturing revenue lost when buyers trade in old cars.

House Bill 327, which runs to 28 pages, also contains payout adjustments to the 2012 law that gradually eliminated the annual "birthday tax" assessment. In the end, it should mean a greater percentage of collections will go to the counties

"For the most part, we're fine with that bill," said Floyd County Tax Commissioner Kevin Payne, who is president of the Georgia Association of Tax Officials.

"It corrects some issues with trade ins — what we call a gaming of the system," he added. "Essentially, a trade-in value can be anything you want it to be ... and that reduces the ad valorem tax. Part of the bill makes the trade-in more of a state book value."

Another provision sets definitive percentages for the way the state and counties divvy up the taxes. Payne said the original bill included a complicated statewide formula that weighted the split each year. The result was that a few larger counties benefited but the rest saw their share decrease.

"This wipes out the state calculation and specifies the percent for each year," he said. "Gradually, the counties get a bigger percent and the state gets less ... It's going to help local governments."

But a non-legislative change — to the statewide tax computer system — is expected to eat up the new money and, probably, more.

Payne said GATO was notified this month of a major upgrade to the accounting and administrative system used by all the tax officials.

There's money in the proposed 2019 budget for the software, but nothing for any local improvements to run the software.

New scanners and more internet bandwidth will definitely be needed, he told the Floyd County Commission, and likely other equipment such as printers, as well.

"We're still trying to figure out how much it will cost us," Payne said. "But it really should be added to the state budget, so this doesn't become an unfunded mandate. We're basically agents of the state."

As an example, he said, his office collects about $200,000 to $300,000 a month in county taxes and about $800,000 for the state.

The new system is expected to go live next spring and tax officials have been told to be ready for tests by September.

"But there's still time to get it in the budget," Payne told the board.

He urged them to contact the local delegation — Sen. Chuck Hufstetler and Reps. Katie Dempsey, Eddie Lumsden and Christian Coomer — to press for state funding.

Lawmakers are at work now on the 2019 fiscal year budget, which runs from July 1 through June 30, 2019. The spending plan must be adopted by both chambers before midnight on March 29, the close of the session.

"We're trying to educate as many people as we can about the plan," Payne said. "Ultimately, if it's not put in the state budget, the counties will have to budget for it."


Floyd BOE to talk school safety
• The Floyd County Board of Education will look to discuss possible measures to strengthen school safety, in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida.

On Thursday morning, a day after a deadly school shooting at a Florida high school, Jay Shell watched his wife and two kids leave the driveway. He had a bothersome thought at that moment, thinking of a father who gave his daughter a kiss, maybe a Valentine's Day card, as she headed out for school, not knowing she would never come home again.

From that thought, the Floyd County Board of Education member ruminated on the need to get a conversation started on how to take a proactive approach in preventing a shooting like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday. He asked Board Chairman Chip Hood to add the topic of school safety to the agenda of this morning's called board meeting, starting at 7 a.m. in the boardroom at 600 Riverside Parkway.

Shell said Wednesday's shooting, which killed 17 people, has seemed to fuel a call for change morethan previous shootings have.

So, on Saturday, Shell posted to Facebook suggestions on how Floyd County Schools could implement protective measures concerning school safety.

"I was a father making a Facebook post asking for feedback," Shell said, adding that the top priority is protecting children. "What can we do to prevent this from happening in Floyd County or Rome or any school in the nation."

Hiring around 15 police officers — who could be brought on from retirement — to be on duty at each school in the system was his first suggestion. Another thought was to train educators to handle firearms. His initial thought on the latter was to select at least five volunteers at each school — specifically having one in each wing — to undergo firearms training and psychiatric evaluations. He did not envision these select individuals openly carrying, but rather having firearms stored in a safe place in which they could quickly access during an active shooter situation.

Shell said his proposals certainly are not final, but as a father and board member they are meant to stimulate a conversation and open the door to input — which has abounded in the days since the post, in both support and opposition — on the topic of school safety. Having more counselors and social workers on staff to "steer (students) on a positive path" is a preventative measure he'd like to see as well.

The board is not expected to make any final decision this morning but will look to assess the current safety measures in place at schools and see in which ways they could be strengthened, Superintendent John Jackson said.

Prior to going into executive session to discuss personnel and property, the board will be presented with personnel changes, including the retirement of Alto Park Elementary Principal Angela Brock, to approve. Jackson said the hope is to recommend a final candidate to replace Brock at the March 6 meeting.

The board will also be presented with a bid from Carroll Daniel Construction Co. to handle the expansion of the Model High football press box.


Shooting some pool

Plans for Shorter shopping center still moving forward
• German grocer Lidl is out of the mix.

Butler Properties now has a sign up in front of the American Legion Post 5 on Shorter Avenue touting their Butler Square retail center which is still on the drawing board.

Lidl, the German grocery chain which had previously been listed as an anchor for the project. is now out of the picture.

Steve Rood, commander of the American Legion Post confirmed Monday that Butler still plans to close on the purchase of the property and the adjacent property tract owned by Shorter University sometime later this summer.

According to the Butler Properties website, the developers conceptual plan has five letters of intent to the project and two parcels still available.

Letters of intent are listed for two parcels of 3,200-square feet each, one of 5,200-square feet and another 2,200-square feet. The two tracts that are still shown as available are show as 7,420-square feet and 5,800-square feet

"It's going to be a strip center," said Rood. "They are planning restaurants on either side of it. I don't know if it's fast food or what."

The latest development plan shows 330 parking spaces serving the development. Some of the parking fronts Shorter Avenue but the majority of it is located behind the retail spaces backing up to the levee.

Butler Properties is the same firm which developed the new Hardee's and Auto Zone on Turner McCall Boulevard at East First Street.


Airport manager hoping for additional funding
• The annual Rome Floyd Chamber trip is full.

Mike Mathews

The Rome Floyd Chamber is reporting an early sell-out for its annual trip to lobby lawmakers and federal agencies in Washington.

Richard B. Russell Regional Airport Manager Mike Mathews said meetings with FAA leadership have been in valuable in the past and he's hoping discussions this year will result in more money for a couple of big projects.

Among the topics locals hope to discuss is funding for security fencing near an extension of the runway. The engineering has been completed but Mathews is seeking funding of close to $615,000 for the perimeter fencing, most likely in the FY 2020 spending cycle.

"We decided to wait until after the runway extension was completed to do it," Mathews said.

Mathews is also hoping that local leaders will put a bug in the agency's ear related to funding for a new paving overlay on the main north-south runway that would coincide with construction of the 1,000-foot runway extension.

The estimated cost for the overlay is $2.5 million.

Chamber Director of Business and Industry Services Ken Wright said that 26 people are signed up for the March 14-16 trip, but there would be some room for others who are willing to make their own flight arrangements.

"We're going to be meeting with Representative Tom Graves, Senator Johnny Isakson and Senator David Perdue, we'll meet with all of them individually," Wright said. "We will also meet with representatives of specific agencies, typically that may be the Appalachian Regional Commission or maybe the Department of Education, the Federal Highway Administration."

Wright said the visits have paid off in the past. Last year a group of us were in a meeting with Federal Highway Administration and they got GDOT on the phone.

"It was the first time we heard for sure they were going to build the Rome-Cartersville Economic Development Corridor," Wright said.

Wright said the previous trips have also resulted in Appalachian Regional Commission funding for a number of projects. Some of those ARC funds have been for high-speed broadband internet service and infrastructure work at the airport.


TODAY'S YOUNG ARTIST

Today's artwork is by Model Elementary thirdgrader Landen Robinson.