Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will present her fifth State of the City address Tuesday during a luncheon held by the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.
In past State of the City addresses, Tomlinson has spoken of accomplishments in her administration’s past and plans for the city’s future. In last year’s address she spoke of four areas of opportunity the city would face:
* Pursuing a high-speed rail connection to Atlanta.
* Starting the process of redeveloping the riverfront property between TSYS and Bibb City.
* Continuing the revitalization of south Columbus.
* Carrying out the vision of ending homelessness here in 10 years.
As she has in past addresses, she will likely touch upon her proposal the “thaw” the city’s property tax assessment freeze. Unlike previous attempts to remove the freeze, Tomlinson’s plan would be to sunset the freeze, allowing anyone under the freeze to remain under it for as long as they want to. But, should voters approve the referendum, which Tomlinson hopes will be on the November ballot, after Jan. 1, 2017, any transfer of property, by sale or probate, that property would come out from under the freeze and be in a new more common and traditional market value system.
Columbus Council, the Muscogee County School Board and the chamber of commerce have formally asked the local legislative delegation to petition the Georgia General Assembly to approve placing the referendum on the November ballot.
Tomlinson may also tell citizens that her administration and Columbus Council will face their toughest budget challenge of her tenure as mayor. Since the Great Recession of 2008, council has repeatedly dipped into reserve funds to balance the annual budget. That has taken the reserves from over 100 day’s worth of funding to right at 60 days, the level below which the city could see its bond rating suffer. So, unless council abandons its desire to remain at or above the 60-day level, it will have practically no reserves to fall back upon.
Deputy City Manager and acting Finance Director Pam Hodge has warned councilors that the city’s bond rating is only one reason the city needs the 60-day reserve. Because tax revenues come in sporadically, the money is needed to cover expenses during the early part of the fiscal year, until property tax revenues start to come in.
In past addresses, Tomlinson has reminded citizens of her administration’s “intervention” at the Muscogee County Prison, when the former warden and some of his command staff were allowed to resign and was replaced with the present warden, Dwight Hamrick, a veteran of the state prison system. Similarly, Tomlinson may speak of the success of the new Rapid Resolution program council passed this year, which has allowed the county jail’s population to reduce to the point that the city has been able to close one wing of the jail.
The chamber luncheon is set to begin at 11 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. Tickets are $25 for chamber members and $35 for non-members.