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BOC asks churches for help

CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners pointed to the waived property taxes for churches during its budget meetings this week and asked churches to offer in-kind support to make up lost funding to local social services.

Commissioners continued to chip away at the current $55 million general fund budget to get it down to the targeted $53 million recommended by the county Finance Department on Monday.

Reductions to some 12 outside agencies providing social services to the community proved daunting as commissioners weighed in on the amount of cuts to each entity during a called meeting Wednesday. About $325,138 in reductions was recommended.

But with more than 100 churches in Conyers alone, resources should be there to make up the difference, according to the commissioners.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness brought up the county-paid services, such as fire and water, that are afforded to churches that are exempt from paying county property taxes. She added that some churches do send in a check for property taxes, though the organizations are not required to do so.

And "in all fairness," Van Ness said some churches just may not be connected with the local need, considering church efforts in missions, often out-of-state and out-of-country.

"But right here in our own back yard there are people who are in dire situations and really do need help," Van Ness said.

Chairman Richard Oden added that the churches may not be aware of their cooperative efforts, citing intense competition in local ministerial alliance organizations.

"I think that the county leadership might be able to take a step forward to inviting the clergy of every single church and address the issue of humanitarian needs," Oden said.

He later said in Wednesday's meeting that getting the community's pastors together is one of the greatest challenges, referencing the county's Walk By Faith march, introduced three years ago to help unite area churches.

"They all got a big 'I' on their chests," Oden said. "It's going to take time to build these bridges."

Van Ness also suggested asking for donations to the county-supported outside agencies on the county's Web site and making a donation option available on water bills.