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Mayor says city’s financial condition is strongest ever
McCollar touts Statesboro’s efforts for parks, youth, housing, transport in ‘State of the City’
mayor
Mayor Jonathan McCollar delivers his “State of the City” from a lectern set up for the purpose Tuesday evening. Statesboro City Council members sat in the front row of the audience for the speech before taking their usual places for the meeting. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar gave a 12-minute “State of the City” speech before Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting.

He reported that the city government is now in excellent financial condition and touted efforts at improving parks, youth programs, housing, transportation and job opportunities, as well as some ongoing special projects. The full text of McCollar’s remarks, as transcribed from a recording, follows.  The newspaper has added topical headings.

"A little over two years ago I had the immense honor to be sworn in as mayor of our beloved city and my precious home town,” McCollar began. “On Day One, we made a promise that we will work tirelessly in an effort to serve the people of our city, and I am happy to report that it was a promise that's been kept.”

 

City workforce

"I fundamentally believe that before any organization can serve the people effectively it must first be able to serve those that serve it,” he continued. “So this meant that the city of Statesboro, as an organization, had to invest into its people and stabilize the organization in such a way that it will become the destination job for those that want to serve in the public sector.

"As a result, we approved a pay plan that leveled the pay for the city employees with other comparative municipalities. The City Council approved a major change in the city's retirement benefit plan. Employees now can retire with full benefits with 30 years of service to the city. Prior to this change, the employees could not draw full retirement benefits until they'd reached 65 years of age. It is because of strategic moves like these that we are positioned to not only retain the great staff that we currently have but to now be more attractive for individuals looking to find and further their careers here at the city of Statesboro.

“Additionally, an intended byproduct of these decisions also positions the city, as an organization, to better serve the people of our beloved community and strategically positions ourselves for the future.”

 

Financial strength

"Financially, the city is stronger than it has ever been. The city's fund balance stands at a solid 45 percent of our general fund, which is 20 percent higher than the standard. In short, if any type of emergency was to arise, we would be ready.

"The city received the government finance offices award distinguished budget award for 2020 for the 16th consecutive year and the certificate of achievement of excellence in financial reporting for the 2018 comprehensive annual report, for the 14th year.

“The City Council approved the refinancing of 2010 water and sewer bonds and GEFA loan, which resulted in a $3.4 million savings for the city. Via strong staff and good governance the city of Statesboro has managed to strengthen itself financially while maintaining one of the lowest property (tax) rates within our comparable class.”

 

Public safety

“A top priority for every city is to do everything possible to create a safe community for the people that we call home, and this is no different for the city of Statesboro. I believe that I can safely say that every member of this council and myself, that we all want to make sure that no unsafe act happens within our community.

"I can report this evening that in the four major categories – rape, homicide, burglary and robbery – we have seen a decrease in crime in three of the four areas and a slight increase in robberies. Overall, the city of Statesboro is a safe community, and we rank with other comparative college towns in a strong Number Two ranking. However, we will not stop until we are in the Number One position.

“The level of safety for a community has a direct effect on the quality of life of the people that call that city home, and in the city of Statesboro it is our goal to ensure that the quality of life for our citizens is high, and that means that if we're going to ensure the safety of our community, then we must start to strategically invest into our youth.

 

Youth & parks

“Near the end of 2018, the mayor and council established the Statesboro Community Youth Network. This measure was a sign of commitment by the city to strategically invest into the future of the young people of the city. Though the creation of the commission was a step in the right direction and mayor and council determined that it was not enough.

”As a result, the city has partnered with the county to put together a plan to revitalize the three major parks inside of the city. It is also a part of this vision to bring current and relevant programming to these parks to serve the young people right in their own neighborhoods.

“For the older youth, we are currently in discussions with the Coastal Regional Commission and WorkSource to expand a youth work program in the city, with the hope of it to launch in the near future.

“I fundamentally believe that a city that fails to invest into its young people is a city that fails in investing into its future. I also believe that we cannot work in the interest of our young people if we're not able to address the environment in which they live.

 

Poverty &jobs

“The city of Statesboro continues to have a poverty rate that ranks above 50 percent. As a result, the city has been working tirelessly to build an environment where the economy is strong and we can attract better-paying jobs for the people here. Thus we have taken a comprehensive approach that looks to not only revitalize sections of the city but to revitalize the entire city.

"Currently, via strong public-private partnerships, the city is aiding and/or leading the way with several significant projects across the city. Via these projects we are expecting the production of hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars of economic impact.

“A key piece to this comprehensive revitalization plan would be a master plan that will lay out the future of downtown Statesboro and the Blue Mile. This document will connect the city's center, Blue Mile and Georgia Southern University. It is our intent to create a downtown that is bustling with energy and businesses are thriving. This means that we will need to update ordinances that will free our local business owners, free them up so that they can grow their businesses and make a financial commitment to our downtown.

“In an effort to bring more life downtown, we have submitted an application for a grant that would bring a $2.5 million improvement to our downtown via a facility for Georgia Southern University where students, faculty and staff will be able to matriculate.

 

Creek on the Blue Mile

“I believe that a key part of every thriving city, there is a downtown that is pushing the lifeblood throughout the entire city. Among these projects is the Creek on the Blue Mile. This is a legacy project that I believe will forever reshape the city of Statesboro. We believe that it will be the project that spurs the revitalization of the Blue Mile, building out a corridor filled with life. In addition it will also bring a brand-new state park to the city of Statesboro. This is an exciting project that has buzz across the entire state of Georgia. It is also a project that will launch our city towards becoming a destination-class city.

“Often when revitalization is spoken of in communities, it is solely focused on business districts. As a result, the older neighborhoods in these communities risk being overlooked, and the people that live there feel left out of the progress that the greater community is making. That is not the case for the city of Statesboro.

 

Housing & transportation

“The city of Statesboro is part of the newest cohort for the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing. This cohort program allows us to focus on our older neighborhoods by removing dilapidated housing, remodel deteriorated homes and open doors for affordable housing opportunities for the people within our community. It also encourages neighborhood associations and input from those individuals that live in our older neighborhoods. This is also an opportunity for those in those neighborhoods to participate in neighborhood planning so their voices can be heard as we put together the blueprint that moves us forward.

“Over the past year, neighborhood revitalization has been coupled with the passage of the T-SPLOST tax. The T-SPLOST now has allowed us to pave more than 10 miles of roads within the city limits. The T-SPLOST is also allowing us to begin the conversation of public transportation within our community, and we are at the precipice of being able to provide a system that will allow our citizens to get to key points within our city: this is Georgia Southern; this is Ogeechee Tech and our shopping districts.

 

‘A special place’

“The city of Statesboro is a special place with special people, and you've heard me say often that the city of Statesboro is a Southern jewel, a Southern jewel that is to be cherished, but more than that, to be preserved.

“Our community is a special community, and it's on us to unite together to make this community what it ought to be,” McCollar said.  “In the words of those that's come before me, I say it once, I say it twice, Statesboro, I love you. God bless you; God bless the United States of America.”

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