The issue of non-profit funding became a hot topic again when the Board of Commissioners passed in a 2-1 vote a $55.7 million general fund budget for 2012 that would reinstate some funding for certain agencies.
At Tuesday’s meeting Commissioner JaNice Van Ness voted against the proposed budget, which had about $30,000 more than the first read of the budget. Some of that increase included $40,000 more in funding for the Rockdale Coalition for Children and Family services, an agency the BOC created and required itself to fund, said Finance Director Roselyn Miller.
The increase from last year's budget of about $54.9 million would be absorbed by the fund balance, or the budget that remains unspent at the end of the year, said Miller.
Van Ness said none of the budget cutting suggestions she had proposed were reflected in the second read budget, including closing a fire station, outsourcing Human Resources functions, reducing the training funding for the Board of Commissioners, cutting the cost of uniforms for the county’s IT department, and repair/maintenance of the Cogsdale software program.
Commissioner Oz Nesbitt said “I’m adamantly against closing Hurst Road (station). It serves a big need.”
Van Ness explained the Hurst Road fire station had the least amount of calls even before Station No. 9 was opened. Nesbitt replied that people would pack the BOC auditorium seats if the county closed the station.
But it was $5,460 funding for a day program for developmentally disabled adults that drew the most scrutiny.
The county proposed funding the Independent Enterprises day program as part of $142,700 for services from Viewpoint Health, formerly the Gwinnett, Rockdale, Newton Community Service Board – one of 25 such government agencies under the state Department of Developmental Health. About 25 of the clients that attend the program are Rockdale residents. The lion’s share of Rockdale’s funding would go for mental health services for the courts.
A motion to take out $5,460 of funding for a day program for developmentally disabled adults located in Newton County did not go forward. However the county did approve funding the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council as an amendment and exception to a resolution against funding 501(c)3 non-profits.
Nesbitt said he was not interested in a “tit-for-tat” with agencies.
“This resolution came about last year when there was a long debate about Ceek-2-Fulfill. During that debate, we should have addressed the issue and gave that agency an opportunity to come to the board and receive funding just like everybody else. Instead over a four week period, we grilled them and put them through hell.
“My concern was going to be in a position to award 501(c)3 agencies funding, if we’re not going to give everyone fair and equal treatment in the way we look at it, then we not give anybody any money. It’s not the business of the board of commissioners beyond the main entities for the day to day operations of the county. It’s not our responsibility to fund everyone who decides to start up a 501(c)3.”
Van Ness replied, “Your point today was that you don’t want this to be uneven. I made a suggestion that we take the $5460 out of the budget so we’re not funding a Newton County agency when we have one that does the exact same thing in our community that is established," she said referring to Rockdale Cares, a non-profit that provides day programs, training and enrichment for developmentally disabled adults as well as operates a respite home.
“I just don’t understand how you can say you want to move forward with this proposal,” she said. The executive director of Rockdale Cares had previously come before the BOC to ask them to be fair and not to fund the Newton County agencies. “She has pleaded with you and met with you to ask you to make it fair,” said Van Ness.
Nesbitt said, “And the same plea went out some time ago as related to the marriage agency as well as Ceek-2-Fulfill. What I’m hearing you say, the 25 people that decide to go down the road to Kirkland Road, you’re looking to cut that money that went to them.”