After a tense public debate about whether Rockdale County should use more of its financial resources to fund the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council, county commissioners elected to grant the CREDC $25,000 more annually.
The board made the decision when it adopted its 2015 budget during a voting session Tuesday morning. CREDC Director Marty Jones requested the increase in funding to help the council refrain from taking a large amount out of its reserve fund in 2015.
The increase in funding will raise the county's total contribution to the CREDC, a joint economic development entity between the City of Conyers and the county, to $150,000. The city has paid $60,000 annually but also recently decided to increase its total contribution to $75,000 in 2015.
Jones says he's thrilled to hear the county will provide the additional funding.
"We'll be able to continue our work as it is," he said. "It says a lot about how serious the county and city is about economic development."
Post 1 County Commissioner Oz Nesbit, vice-chairman of the CREDC, has been the BOC's biggest supporter of the increasing funding to the CREDC and says that he's pleased Post 2 County Commissioner JaNice Van Ness supported his proposal for the increase.
In previous board meetings, Nesbitt has also rallied to give the CREDC even more than $25,000 additional dollars, but says the increase now will suffice.
"This is a step in the right direction," Nesbitt said. "Without question $25,000 is more than enough at this time."
The extra money will empower the board and Jones to do more for the county in terms of economic development, says Nesbitt.
In her initial amendments last week to the county budget proposed by County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden, Van Ness proposed a $15,000 increase, but was quick to add that she hadn't made a final decision on the budget and was still doing researching.
The only board member that didn't support giving the CREDC additional funds was Oden, due to the fact that Jones hadn't provided him with information related to the CREDC that Oden requested from Jones in November 2013 and again in August.
Oden said during the Nov. 18 budget hearing that he hadn't received information related to the CREDC's exact return on investment to the county, exact number of jobs created, new business comparison for the county and City of Conyers, an action plan for the CREDC and other financial information dating as far back as six years.
Jones says this was largely a miscommunication on his part, but some of the information requested he couldn't speak to because he wasn't working at the CREDC during those times.
"We gave him the budget for the past six years," said Jones. "He felt like it was incomplete and wanted justification for expenses. I wasn't here then."
Jones started work as director of the CREDC on November 18, 2013.
Also, even though the CREDC receives taxpayer money, they don't have to share certain information with the public because it's not a governmental entity,
Now that the organization has more funding, Oden wants to more accomplished by the CREDC.
"My budget proposal did not call for an increase mainly because I want to see more value for the county taxpayer's current contribution to CREDC," said Oden in a released statement. "Therefore, with this increase in investment, there will be expanded performance expectations with greater accountability, transparency, a closer monitoring of activities, shared decision making and reporting on a consistent basis. I look forward to soon sitting down with the Council to discuss in detail how to make this happen."
The CREDC will have about $260,000 in funding from city, county, Rockdale County Development Authority and additional revenue. Jones says that still falls about $10,000 short of the CREDC's proposed operation budget for next year, so the board may still have to dip into its reserves.
The CREDC will have $50,000 in reserve funds at the end of this year. Jones says the board would prefer not to let the reserve money slip past $15,000 or $20,000, but there isn't a mandate on how much money needs to be in reserves.
An adoption of a 2015 budget by the CREDC board may happen at its next meeting in January 2015. The board was hesitant to adopt a budget before knowing if it had received the additional money from the county.