Columbus mayor discusses state of the city - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Columbus mayor discusses state of the city

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson reflected on the city's accomplishments last year and what's ahead for the future in her state of the city address during a luncheon Tuesday afternoon at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.

"The potential was released metaphorically and literally with the exploding of the Eagle & Phenix dam in 2012," said Mayor Tomlinson. "Just this year we unanimously reformed the City's Employee Pension Plan saving taxpayers some 25 million dollars over 15 years. We reduced crime to the lowest levels in six years- down 23 percent."

Mayor Tomlinson addressed the city, taking a look back and jumping right into what she has planned for the future, beginning with diversifying and connecting the city.

"Gone are the days where we shutter our community by income, race and opportunity," said Mayor Tomlinson.

The mayor's plan of action includes gaining "redevelopment powers" and developing blighted urban areas.

"Redevelopment powers are innovative financing tools that the state of Georgia has allowed cities to adopt since 1985 in order to revitalize blighted urban areas," Tomlinson said.

Mayor Tomlinson says attracting businesses to blighted areas – which usually have high crime and failing schools – will improve the way of life for many in our community.

Take this shopping center here on Fort Benning Road for example. Say this property is worth $20,000 and a developer comes in and invests $100 million worth of shops and restaurants here, they'd only be taxed on the initial worth of the property. That means a huge tax break for them and economic growth for the community.

"That takes about ten to twelve percent off the costs of the development which makes the difference for a developer to between developing in a green field in North Columbus and developing in a blighted area," Mayor Tomlinson said.

If the proposal is approved, the city would issue "non-guaranteed" bonds, which means there's no financial risk for the city and it won't end up on the taxpayers tab.

"Really, there's just no reason not to do this," she said. "It's one of those things that's a no lose situation for us. There's never been a redevelopment powers bond that has failed in the state of Georgia."

Mayor Tomlinson also mentioned the property tax freeze stating it is flawed and has failed the city, how much more or less it will cost you when the tax is modified. 

In an effort to make Columbus a more appealing place for homeowners, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is proposing retiring the property tax freeze and implementing a tax break for new homeowners

The mayor says the property tax freeze has failed to do as it promised when it was implemented 30 years ago.

Mayor Tomlinson is adamant that anyone who currently falls under the property tax freeze will keep it,  however for new home buyers the mayor says she's trying to move the city to a more fair market valuation system.

"We're treating everyone the same that currently has the freeze they keep it but all new transfers are treated the same and they go into the new system, which has a tremendous tax break- an increased homestead exemption that will lower property taxes on a $200,000 home roughly ten percent," said Mayor Tomlinson.

The mayor says the property tax freeze is "driving families and young people away."

She also stresses this proposed plan is new and entirely different from past reform proposals.   

Mayor Tomlinson specifically talked about unifying the community and no longer letting economic status and race separate it.

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