Publisher's note: This post, by Angela Hight, was originally published in the Budget & Taxes, Corruption & Ethics, Issues, Politics section(s) of Civitas's online edition.
With a City Councilman who is a race baiter and a "Witness Wednesday" arrestee, another councilman who voted to give money to an organization of which he is a board member, and plenty of other questions about whether an event center would be a good investment, why should we trust the Rocky Mount City Council?
But wait, there's more! Someone from the city (it is unknown who did it) leaked to the Rocky Mount Telegram
that the estimated cost for the proposed Rocky Mount Event Center would be about $4.8 million more than anticipated! The study and numbers were released recently at a Council Committee of a Whole meeting.
So how will the city pay for this event center? In the words of Charles Penny, Rocky Mount City Manager, "By expanding our tax base." Right after he introduced the concept, he was quick to add that the "legislature took away our way to expand this base by not letting us annex." So the answer to this problem of not having a big-enough tax base is to have options that involve taxing those that live in the city.
The final funding number – and government projects always balloon in price – will determine how much the city will raise property taxes. (See the graph on page 8
with this article. It shows the tax hike in cents per $100 assessed value, i.e., 6 cents equals $90 for a home with an assessed value of $150,000). While some people may not think that $90 will be that much, what about others who don't want it at all at any price? If the taxpayers will be paying for the center, let them vote and decide if they want it,
In a recent study
it was found that Nash and Edgecombe counties (Rocky Mount is in both counties) have been declining in population. The city leaders are so intent on locating it downtown they have lost all any vision of what the city needs first. Some of the needs that need to be met are safety of citizens, decreasing cost of taxes, decreasing utility bills, increasing property values, and attracting businesses and people who are interested in long term investment. An event center would bring money from people who are in Rocky Mount for a short time who have no long-term investment in bringing the city back to reclaim the tile of "City on the Rise," making the project ill-suited for the long run.
The committee of a whole meeting was closed by each council member's final thoughts and there were several strong themes. Council members were adamant that city has never failed their citizens, and they were committed to transparency and needed the citizens' trust. Should we trust them when a council member has called a successful businessman a racist? Should we trust them when our property values are decreasing? Should we trust them when our population is declining? Should we trust them when someone leaked to the media the day before the meeting that the numbers were off for the proposed cost? Taxpayers want to know that their money is going to improve their investments not just bring some people to the city.
On April 21 there will be a Proposed Event Center Public Meeting. Maybe we will get some answers then.