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County looks at dip into fund balance to clean Rockdale streets
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CONYERS - Halfway through the county's fiscal year, Rockdale County Chairman Richard Oden decided to have a discussion with the two county commissioners related to increasing the county's budget by $125,000 to clean up Rockdale's roads.

Several Rockdale County citizens have consistently asked the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners (BOC) about what will be done to remedy the trash "that is spread all over our community," according to Oden. This extra money will be used to hire two additional staff members, another vehicle and new equipment and supplies to combat the trash issue.

"I think $125,000 is not asking for too much," said Oden. "I don't want to Rockdale look like a DeKalb County, or Fulton County, or a Gwinnett County, or any other county."

The two county commissioners stated they supported something being done to remove the trash from along the roadways, but were hesitant to back this idea for financial reasons.

"I don't understand where the $125,000 would come from at this point in the budget year," said Post 2 County Commissioner Doreen Williams.

Rockdale County Finance Director Roselyn Miller told the board the money would come out of the fund balance, which is currently sits at $34 million but will drop will drop by as much as $4 million after this fiscal year, says Miller.

The county had budgeted to dip into the fund balance by $7 million to balance the 2015 budget, but Miller says the county probably won't use that much. Due to a locally approved ordinance, the county's fund balance cannot drop below $20 million.

Miller added that if the county's expenses remain the same, the county will have to go into the fund balance again in 2016.

"If we continue to go into fund balance by $6 million, we'll be (at $20 million) in about two or three years," she said.

But, since the county will probably have unused budgeted fund balance money, Oden seems to want to use some of it for this endeavor.

"We're running under budget right now," he said. "We got money everywhere.

"One-hundred twenty-five thousand dollars is not a lot of money folks."

Miguel Valentin, director of the Rockdale Department of Transportation (RDOT), told the board the actual cost of the additional workers and equipment for cleaning up could fall to around $95,000 since RDOT has already gone through some of the hiring process for additional workers. To maintain the level of service it would cost the county about $75,000 per year.

Post 1 County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt told the chairman he needs to be "more fiscal responsibly" with the county budget.

"We were already in trouble going into this year just to make this year do what it's doing," he said.

The fact Oden wanted to allot this money to RDOT "immediately" was also worrisome to Nesbitt.

With the next round of budget discussions set to being in the coming months for 2016, Both Nesbitt and Williams feel it would be best to wait until that time for the county to decide where it should get the necessary money.

"I would like to see us include this in the budget for 2016 and plan for it and be ready right at the beginning of the season," said Williams. "I think if citizens know that we have a plan that's helpful."

Oden doesn't think it should wait and refers to this matter as of high importance in a county letter. Picking up the trash and debris on the street could also spur economic development in certain parts of the county, Oden says.

"The big picture is keeping Conyers, Rockdale clean and beautiful," he said. "The community continues to cry out. The community continues to say, ‘I want it done,' so if the community is willing to pay the price, they have said yes."

This discussion took place during the BOC work session Tuesday morning. It was not part of the regular agenda and no immediate vote on the $125,000 allotment is scheduled.