Rockdale approves first reading of $55.7 million budget

CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners approved the first reading of the $55.7 million county budget at Tuesday's meeting. The vote was 2-1, with Commissioner JaNice Van Ness dissenting.

Finance director Roselyn Miller said the budget would probably change before the final reading in December.

"The first reading has not changed since the Nov. 1 meeting," she said. "However, we are still gathering and finalizing the budget and hopefully we'll have that to you by next meeting."

Right now, the budget includes about $3.1 million from fund balance, or savings, which Van Ness said was a record high for the county.

"I hope we will go back and refine our budget even further," Van Ness said.

Residents expressed some concerns about the budget at Tuesday's meeting.

Resident Josie Dean said the county needed to find new revenue sources.

"We're going to have to, as a county, figure out how to bring in revenue," she said. "We're going to have to decide what we are going to do. As citizens, we're going to have to tell y'all what we want to do to bring revenue in."

Garvin Haynes, resident and community leader, said the board should consider selling surplus properties.

"This county owns a number of parcels -- sell them, sell them cheap, whatever. But that is a source of revenue," he said.

Van Ness said she and Miller had been meeting to discuss potential cuts and changes to the budget.

On Nov. 1, Van Ness suggested the Board of Commissioners consider privatizing services, such as the Human Resources Department, in order to cut down on budget costs. She said this was one of the items she was working on with Miller.

Commissioner Oz Nesbitt said he would be interested to hear more of Van Ness's suggestions.

"We still have some time, as you say, and we have time to tighten down before the next reading," Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt said he also welcomed suggestions from county residents. He invited residents to meet with the commissioners in order to discuss their ideas for the budget.

Nesbitt said he had not heard from any citizens despite the commissioners' offer to discuss ideas with citizens through meetings.

"I will gladly entertain any suggestions or ideas -- I've not heard from anybody," he said. "We've not had anybody sit down and have detailed discussions about the budget."

The final reading of the budget will be at the Dec. 13 BOC meeting.