Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms’ state of the city address to aldermen Monday included a healthy list of the things he said the city has accomplished despite complications created by COVID-19.
“It has been a challenging year in many different ways,” Mr. Thoms said of 2021. “We had several achievements which include increasing revenue, no property tax increase and we were able to maintain the same level of city services.”
He also predicted an even brighter outlook in the next 12 months.
Going into 2022, the city is in better shape financially than it has been for years, he said. That is due in part to a significant increase in tax revenue. In 2021, the city received $4.5 million in tax revenue compared with $3.9 million in the previous five years, Mr. Thoms said. It also restructured its debt to maintain its credit rating and continues to consolidate its pensions, he added.
The city also filled 15 vacant buildings and created a listing of all available city properties. It also has seen a number of companies invest in their buildings and two manufacturing firms and a machining facility expand, Mr. Thoms added.
In all, Rock Island has much to be proud of and thankful for in 2021, Mr. Thoms said. “Our city has remained resilient in the wake of the global pandemic.” Leaders did not raise property taxes in 2021 and do not expect to do so in 2022, he said. Rock Island also passed “a fiscally responsible 2022 budget,” and is working to find out how best to use $26.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Mr. Thoms called it “a once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. He said the city has directed Interim City Manager John Gripp to hire an ARPA program manager. That person will be charged with facilitating a town hall meeting and other community engagement activities and interviews to determine “how to make the most positive impact on the city for years to come,” the mayor said.
The city so far has committed $2.5 million in ARPA funding, plus an additional $1.5 million in tax increment financing (TIF) district funds to an effort to revitalize downtown via an ambitious partnership between the City of Rock Island and the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. The partners hope to use the funds leverage a $7 million state grant to dramatically remake the downtown area.
Those projects and others are expected to build on $60 million-plus in 2021 investments in the city that he said include:
- A new federal government building
- A new YWCA
- A new American Bank Building
- A new library branch and YMCA at the former Quad Cities Jewish Center
- A city parking ramp
“There is much to be excited about in 2022, as we continue to move Rock Island forward,” he said. For example, as the Rock Island Library celebrates its 150th birthday, it is expected to open its new branch, and the city looks forward to seeing what a needs assessment of the city’s west end can help bring to that area of Rock Island.
The city also will implement the four major goals it set as part of the 2022-25 Strategic plan the council created in the fall of 2021.
“Looking to the future,” Mr. Thoms told aldermen Monday, “we have so much to be excited about for 2022 as we continue to move the city in the right direction.”