Legislators get report on Jasper finances

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Two legislators expressed delight after hearing a briefing on the City of Jasper's finances on Monday, pointing out growing reserves and more housing in the city. 

Mayor David O'Mary said Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, and state Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, were given written and verbal reports and were allowed to ask questions in a laid back manner for more than an hour at City Hall. 

The session with the legislators was private, although the Daily Mountain Eagle was allowed in to speak to the participants after the session and was given copies of the written report. A copy of the written report can be found with this story at www.mountaineagle.com. 

It was the fourth consecutive year that legislators were brought in for a report, he said, noting the authority to be a municipality comes from the Legislature. 

"We think it is extremely important our legislative delegation know what we are doing good or bad. So we ask them to come here," he said. "We don't embellish anything. Everything that is in these reports is documented." 

O'Mary said he hoped the city would not have to call on legislators for monetary support, "but if we do we might get the attention a little quicker and at a little higher level" with knowledge of the city's finances. 

As for the annual report, "I wish other governmental entities would do the same thing. You ought to play your hand, whatever it is. Taxpayers are entitled to know what is going on. We've talked about transparency from the day we got here, and we've lived that," O'Mary said. He added a lot of other governments would benefit from doing the same thing. 

According to the document distributed, total of $10.9 million in total revenue has been collected in the General Fund so far in Fiscal 2021. Sales tax revenue is showing an increase of 8.1 percent, compared to the periods ending Jan. 31 in the last fiscal year and this year. In that period, ad valorem tax receipts were up 9.75 percent, while personal property tax revenue was up 8.98 percent. The alcohol receipts are $11,000 ahead of last year at this time. 

"For the first four months of operation, the General Fund is operating with excess revenue over expenditures of $2,713,000," the report said. 

Sales tax gross collections, which were $14.7 million in 2017, rose to $16.2 million in 2020, and are projected to be $16.9 million in 2021. 

Rowe said the city report and the numbers were "very impressive," noting no other government entity in her district has presented an annual report like this. That, she said, makes representing the area easy to do by having a "report card" in hand. 

"Our mayor has a very deep background in banking and finance, and it is a unique part of who is is and what type of mayor he is," Rowe said. "But I think it has been to the advantage of the citizenry for him to have the skill set that he does. 

"The reserve graph in particular is very impressive, in light of not just what we have been through in the last year, but what we have been through in the past several years. I just cannot imagine a healthier report card for a municipality." 

Rowe said the result is that one can "buy into what the City of Jasper is trying to do," motivating her to help the city. "It appears they are doing an excellent job of minding the city coffers. That is the kind of train you want to get on board with," she said.

Reed said it was a good opportunity to visit with city officials, noting he had a good relationship with them. He noted out of the 27 municipalities he represents in his district, Jasper is the largest "that I represent all of," as it covers a portion of a couple of cities that might be larger than Jasper. 

Overall, he said he was "impressed" with the presentation, and looks forward to continued growth. Officials also gave a review of things that might be coming to the city. 

"I'm excited to get a positive report" from Jasper, noting the state has done well at the same time. "We've been able to navigate the difficulties of 2020 with a very conservative approach," he said. "I think the City of Jasper has been able to do that exact same thing." 

He noted the presentation noted "a significant increase" over the past couple of years in new home construction within the city. He had heard from business leaders in the county that not having as much of a real estate base has been a challenge locally. 

He said the report helps the legislators in knowing the impact of their work on municipalities. 

Rowe also noted that the meeting also reviewed how Jasper Main Street had resulted in such an impact on the downtown area, as well as its future plans. The work impacts not just businesses in the city, but also throughout the county, as people are attracted from surrounding areas and wind up spending throughout the city, not just in downtown.