Registered voters in Floyd County, Rome, and Cave Spring may think there is not a lot to vote for on Tuesday’s ballot, however we encourage them to look again.
Voters have an opportunity to have a voice in what could be an important catalyst in the future for all of Floyd County. Deciding whether or not to vote for an extension of the current 1-cent special purpose, local option sales tax (SPLOST). This tax, which will not begin until April 2019, is a continuance of an existing SPLOST. It will generate an estimated $63.8 million that will fund some 26 projects vetted and recommended by a volunteer Citizens Advisory Committee.
City and county voters have the same opportunity to decide whether or not to vote for a five-year continuation of the current 1-cent education local option sales tax (ELOST). The ELOST for both, Rome City and Floyd County School systems, is estimated to generate $80 million that will fund a new Main Elementary School, renovated North Heights Elementary into a sixth-grade STEAM academy, a new multipurpose building at Rome High that would include a College and Career Academy, and several other much-needed improvements.
Not as enticing as the SPLOST and ELOST tax continuation requests, voters in Cave Spring and Rome will still have an opportunity to select city council members and city commissioners for each municipality. The people they select will have an important leadership role in working alongside fellow elected officials and government administrators to be sure all tax dollars are spent as voters wish.
The campaigns have attracted quite a few candidates, including those seeking re-election and challengers. Rome Board of Education has five incumbents and 10 challengers seeking seven seats, Rome City Commission has three open seats with three seeking re-election and three challengers. Cave Spring’s three city council seats have one unopposed incumbent, two candidates seeking a vacant seat, and an incumbent with one challenger. It is encouraging to see a large number of good people willing to seek public office. We hope that trend continues as more candidates bring more issues needing discussion.
However the ELOST and SPLOST campaigns have not been without controversy. Advertisements, letters to the editor, pro and con web sites, social media posts, and an abundance of yard signs have many expressing their views.
The two issues that seem to garner the most negative comment are the College and Career Academy included on the Rome City Schools ELOST and the Agricultural Center included by the Citizens Committee list of projects on the general SPLOST.
Rome City Schools has included a College and Career Academy to be included in its multi-purpose building on Rome High Campus. The RCS board has offered to house a combined CCA on its Rome High campus. The systems are also working on finding career pathways they can share.
Many in the community point out that Floyd County Schools already operate one of the best CCAs in the state. More than 800 students attend classes there. Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Technical College System of Georgia, and Georgia Highlands College participate in the program of workforce development and would like Rome City Schools to join them and allow city school students to attend classes there. These entities, along with support from the governor’s office, have offered 18 acres of land and other assistance to help the Floyd County CCA serve all Floyd County students.
The general SPLOST contains an Agricultural Center that is generating voter uncertainty. This project we think is deserving of a top spot on the citizen committee list. Nationally more and more attention is given to how we grow the food that sustains us all. The University of Georgia has one of the world’s best food research facilities. Most of what we eat is researched there. An Agricultural Center located in Rome will position our community to develop programs that attract UGA and others. Combine this center with the health care offered by Harbin Clinic, Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center, and Rome and Floyd County could be positioned as a major participant in food and nutrition development.
We encourage voters to VOTE YES for ELOST and SPLOST. The saying that the devil is in the details is appropriate here. The objections raised by those in opposition will be best addressed after the vote passes. We believe that the two boards will discuss and resolve CCA issues. We also believe the City and County governments will create an Agricultural Center that attracts much development to Floyd County.
A yes vote says we want to move Rome forward.