New judges sworn in

New Municipal Court judges John Scott Husser Jr. (left) and Chris Jackson (right) take their oath of office from City Attorney Andy Davis on Monday night.

Independent auditors have given the city of Rome finances a clean report to close the books for 2019. Christopher McKellar with the Mauldin & Jenkins firm said the city ended the year with a $23.8 million general fund balance.

The audit showed the fund balance grew by almost $3 million from the previous year. The account included $22.3 million in unrestricted funds, which means they aren’t limited to paying only specific types of bills.

Revenues produced $30.6 million, with 85% of that related in some way to taxes. Expenses totaled $22 million, with the largest chunk of that, 37%, earmarked for public safety.

The city’s bonded indebtedness decreased by almost 67% over the last decade, City Commissioner Mark Cochran said. Eliminating those annual payments puts the city in good position to borrow in the future, he said, if they want to take on special projects identified as key priorities.

The 10-year analysis of city finances shows that the number of government employees working in areas related to quality of life had increased from 11 to 56 by the end of 2019.

“It shows we take it kind of serious,” he said.

Cochran also noted that, while the audit report is showing growth in tourism and quality of life projects, it is not happening in manufacturing.

Only four of Rome’s top 10 property taxpayers are manufacturing firms. Southeastern Mills, Keebler, Foss and Bekaert rank fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth respectively. Redmond Regional Medical Center, Harbin Properties and Georgia Power are the top three.

“I just feel like manufacturing is a thing of the past,” said Commissioner Jim Bojo, indicating clear support for moving forward with annexing properties on the urban fringe wherever possible.

Bojo said a group of investors expressed serious interest last week in assisting the city redevelop certain areas, particularly urban fringe properties they would be willing to have annexed into the city.

The topic of annexation will be a primary focus when the Redevelopment Committee meets Wednesday at 2 p.m., Commissioner Wendy Davis said.

In the city the population growth is stagnant, the demographic and statistical analysis section of the annual financial report shows the city’s population only grew by 413 residents over the last decade.

However, some commissioners looked at the data a bit differently.

“I think Rome has done a remarkable job to retain population,” said Commissioner Jamie Doss. “People are starting to discover Rome.”

Also, new Municipal Court judges Chris Jackson and John Scott Husser Jr. were officially sworn in by City Attorney Andy Davis Monday night. Jackson will serve as the lead judge.

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