With the days getting longer and hotter, June and the official beginning of summer is finally here!
With the start of summer comes the ever-familiar activities around our county that have made this one of the hottest destinations in the country for summer sports and outdoor activities. With the start of tournament fishing season, kids’ summer camps, Vacation Bible School, extreme summer sports and various other summer time draws, Monroe County is alive with tourists and locals out enjoying the beauty and thrills our great county has to offer.
A very exciting time of year, we are proud of our many local high school seniors who will soon begin the next chapter of their lives, concurrent with the next generation of kindergarten students as they begin their own educational journey through our public-school systems. Though this has been one of the toughest school years in memory, our seniors have endured and adapted through unprecedented challenges just to overcome and thrive. I could not be prouder of our next generation of business and community leaders. What they have achieved this year has been nothing short of remarkable against some challenging odds. Congratulations, seniors!
June is not only the official beginning of summer, but it is also the end of the fiscal budget year for the county. I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about some of the things we have had going on this past year financially.
We were very excited to announce that through a policy of fiscal conservatism the county is in the most financially solvent position we have been in history. Though nationally it seems the economy has fluttered, it seems Monroe County has gotten a jolt of economic adrenaline. Over the past 12 months, we have seen a 22% increase in our sales tax collections, despite the challenges of COVID-19, which indicates a promising summer for our county. We also have seen an increase in the amount of business license applications and building permits applied for, with over 100 new businesses in Monroe County over the past year alone.
At the end of this month, Monroe County will be in one of the strongest financial positions we have ever been, and I am very thankful and proud of the role every county employee has played in making that happen.
Monroe County has also been the beneficiary of a growing job market and strong local economy. Current unemployment data shows Monroe County is hovering around 3.8% unemployment, compared to 5.8% nationally. Our unemployment rate has dropped consecutively over the past 12 months from 22% this time last year.
Obviously last year was an outlier compared to other more “normal” years, so we are very happy we have been able to see our unemployment rates drop so significantly and get our residents back to work. This unemployment rate is one of the lowest in our region and I am proud of how the citizens of this county always find a way to bounce back from a challenge.
This good news is coupled with some other significant news coming from a few of our various departments under the mayor’s purview. The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) office is reporting an estimated $3.2 million dollars in collections over the past year, the best ever posted by this department.
Monroe County is one of very few counties in the state that still operate our EMS service here in-house, so it’s extremely encouraging to see these kinds of numbers and we are very happy we are able to continue to offer this service to our citizens without the use of a third-party contractor.
This isn’t the only department making major moves this budget cycle. Ten of our 14 departments this year proposed cuts to their budgets, with two making cuts in excess of 30%, four making cuts in excess of 10%, and the majority of others making cuts of 5% or better.
Lastly, I want to deviate from budget talk for a moment and mention the recent creation and dedication of the Glenn Moser Memorial Park in downtown Madisonville. Mayor Moser was a dear friend and worked tirelessly for the City of Madisonville for many years. Mayor Moser was one of the hardest working men I ever had the pleasure of knowing and he will truly be missed.
The park dedication will serve as a permanent reminder of a man who gave thoughtlessly to his community, his church and his family for the entirety of his adult life. There is no man more deserving of this great honor.
I am thankful that Gov. Bill Lee, State Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, State Sen. Mike Bell, State Rep. Lowell Russell and State Rep. Mark Cochran were able to attend and commemorate this special event with Mayor Moser’s family and community.
As Billy Graham once said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
I couldn’t think of a more fitting description of the legacy of Mayor Glenn Moser.
As always, it is an honor to serve as your mayor.