Mayor Robert Reichert preached a message of hope during his State of the Community address on Thursday.
The mayor briefly highlighted some of the challenges still facing Macon-Bibb County, but primarily focused on why he says many residents are optimistic about the direction in which the county is headed. Reichert also challenged those in attendance and other residents to express why they love Macon.
Reichert said the On The Table events that were attended by about 5,000 people show that many people are optimistic about Macon-Bibb.
On Thursday, about 500 people attended Reichert’s speech, which was hosted by the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce.
“There are concerns about crime, poverty and economic security, but nearly 70 percent felt our community is changing for the better,” Reichert said during the event at the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center.
Reichert also discussed the county’s financial situation after four consecutive years of deficits.
Last year’s budget of $154.7 million was still considerably lower than the $165.6 million in the combined city and county budgets from the year prior consolidation, Reichert noted.
Former unincorporated residents are now paying a higher millage rate than before 2014. but those who lived in the former Macon city limits are taxed less, Reichert said.
The county’s millage rate went up for the second year in a row in 2018 after a contentious budget showdown.
”We did have a small deficit ($2.3 million) in FY 18 so we budgeted for slightly less revenue in FY 19 than we received in 18,“ Reichert said. “I’m pleased to say that our revenues are increasing and we’re holding the line on expenses.”
There are examples of the progress that’s taking place from new industry to education and more. He cited the “love of the community” as being a prime reason for the successes.
Reichert mentioned new jobs that are coming to Macon, such as Irving Consumer Products plant and Embraer.
The trend of development in downtown Macon is continuing. And the Bibb County school system continues to take significant strides while the local colleges are expanding as well, Reichert said.
The county has continued to invest millions of dollars into recreation, museums, fire stations and more with the special purpose local option sales tax, he said.
Also, various organizations are using their resources to benefit Macon-Bibb, Reichert added.
“It takes the majority of citizens to do this, and again, the love of community, the power in the community to become great,” Reichert said. “We are moving in the right direction but we have not arrived at our destination.
“Our physical infrastructure is old and needs improvement,” Reichert said. “We still have naysayers and nonbelievers but we are on the right track.”