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Proposal offered by GCEDC leaves some questions unansweredPosted Friday, September 24, 2010, at 2:13 PM
The Greene County Redevelopment Commission was presented with an interesting, but troubling proposal this week from the Greene County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC).
The GCEDC, a not-for-profit organization, has requested that the Redevelopment Commission enter into a professional services agreement that will provide $50,000 in 2011.
The money would be paid out of TIF (Tax Increment Financing) revenues, which the county has an accumulated balance of just over $1 million, as of earlier this week.
No decision has been made yet, and I think this proposal bears a close look and careful consideration by members of the Redevelopment Commission in this day of monetary challenges for the county.
It's no secret that the budget is tight and a half dozen county employees were recently told by the Greene County Council that they no longer will have jobs in the 2011 budget.
By way of history, the Greene County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) was formed in 1989 when a group of leaders recognized the need for a professionally organized economic development operation. Purdue University helped initially fund the position of executive director. With support from the county, the group incorporated on June 9, 1989 and became the agency responsible for initiating economic development activities on behalf of the county.
Joan Bethell joined the Greene County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) in February 2007 as executive director.
The bulk of GCEDC's funding is already coming from county revenue sources.
In the current year's budget (2010), GCEDC received $120,000 from the County General Fund ($80,000) and Riverboat Gambling Revenues ($40,000).
The organization also received $2,000 from municipality contributions, which is also tax revenue.
The only other source of income for GCEDC listed on its budget form that was submitted to the Greene County Auditor's office is $7,500 that came from the group's annual golf tournament and member dues amounting to $20,000.
The GCEDC's entire budget for 2010 is $159,500.
For the coming year, the County Council cut GCEDC's budget request from $120,000 to $40,000 and directed Bethell to find other means of support -- namely go to the Redevelopment Commission and ask for some money.
The council did leave the door open for GCEDC to come back before them after the first of the year and request some additional funding, if other sources weren't found.
GCEDC's 2011 budget amounts to $148,000 -- an $11,500 decrease from the previous year.
However, within the 2011 budget there is an actual increase of $8,000 within the payroll line item going from $96,000 in 2010 to $104,000 in 2011 -- an 8.3 percent increase.
I'm not sure how the payroll is divided up among the two-person staff -- the executive director and an administrative assistant. That information wasn't provided in the budget proposals for 2010 and 2011 that Bethell turned in to the county auditor's office.
She is not required to submit a budget for formal review by the county council, but says she does so out of a courtesy to the county.
The wages of county workers will be frozen for the second straight year in 2011.
I'm sure the GCEDC would contend they are not really county employees, but when about 75 percent of its budget comes mostly from county revenue sources, then I think there needs to be some correlation between the two.
A look at the budget also shows among the payroll-related expenses for 2011 is $15,600 for payroll taxes, $4,105 for health insurance and $2,510 for the 3 percent match on a retirement IRA.
So essentially, payroll and benefits amount to $126,210 for two employees who work out of a rent-free office space provided at MainSource Bank in Linton.
We do understand that some of the salary money is underwritten by other sources, not from county tax dollars.
I guess the question is, can we as a county afford to subsidize economic development efforts at the same rates as in past years?
The proposed scope of work specifically outlined in GCEDC's proposal to the county Redevelopment Commission for the $50,000 fee focuses on efforts at WestGate at Crane Tech Park and along the I-69 Corridor.
What about economic development efforts in the rest of Greene County?
What is being done?
What is planned?
There are some serious points to ponder and questions to ask before the Redevelopment Commission decides to enter into the contract agreement with GCEDC.
I'm not saying GCEDC is not doing a creditable job currently or the in the past, but these are tough economic times and we need to consider whether the county receives a good rate of return on any money that is spent in the future.
I know measuring economic development successes is difficult, but should GCEDC be encouraged to pay more of its own way -- seeking out grants and other revenue sources outside the county's budgets?
Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages... .
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