by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Rocky Mount leaders expect the 2.5-cent property tax increase this year will be the last needed to cover their big bet on the Rocky Mount Event Center. The tax hike is the second in two years, but the first was extremely painful for city government and residents alike. Because the local economy has not recovered, the revenue-neutral tax rate after revaluation was 64 cents, from 60.5 cents in FY2017. City council raised the rate to 66 cents to raise additional revenue before increasing taxes again for next year to 68.5 cents.
Julie Tisdale has written positively about Rocky Mount Mills, and City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney, who is nearing the end of her first year in office, wants to make city government easier to navigate with a new one-stop center for businesses, and consolidation of multiple functions in a new Community and Business Development Center. A new government division and Chief Information Officer could pay dividends with better technology.
The city is conducting an interesting experiment in whether better service can overcome higher taxes for a big showcase bet.