EDC Board talks budget priorities

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The Liberty Hill Economic Development Corporation (EDC) spent two hours discussing budget priorities at a workshop July 12. Much of that time focused on two issues, both centered on funding for outside projects.

The EDC budget, shows a preliminary projection of $338,363 in revenue primarily from its sales tax allocation, with a reserve of about $500,000. The outlay for the next fiscal year is projected at close to $570,000, covering personnel, contractual services and capital outlays.

While much of the budget will not fluctuate much, decisions have yet to be made regarding specific contributions to outside organizations as well as capital improvement projects the EDC may partner on with the City.

The Board discussed how the EDC should allocate and manage its $30,000 initially budgeted for contributions, citing past confusion on whether contributions to events such as the Sculpture Celebration and Christmas Festival met the intended needs and showed proper accountability.

Making sure the EDC doesn’t become the long-term funder of annual events was also important to board members.

“We don’t want it to become where organizations depend on these sponsorships and are not able to raise money on their own,” EDC Executive Director Lance Dean said.

Board member Johnny Johnston suggested that the focus should be on helping launch events, not sustaining them.

We can play a role when the event is a new event that hasn’t been well established, but our goal needs to be to ween them off of our support on a regular basis,” Johnston said.

The EDC has a cap of $5,000 for any single event, and has an application and follow-up reporting process for those receiving contributions.

“My point is that if we develop a procedure, and notify all the charities or perennial users that we want their budget early, we want to make a plan in our annual budget for it and that’s how we’re going to work in those sponsorships,” Board Chairman Bill Chapman said. “I think it is great that we do it.”

No decision was made on which specific contributions would be made with the allocated $30,000 or if that would be the final number.

Capital investments
The EDC has helped fund area capital improvement projects and is being asked by the City to budget $200,000 in the upcoming fiscal year to assist with transportation projects, including the roundabout downtown.

There was no opposition to the investment in city projects voiced among board members, but there was discussion on the future financial viability of doing so as the EDC expands more into its own projects.

Dean also wanted to clarify that the EDC does not have $1 million in its fund balance, saying the number is closer to $500,000 after the rest of this fiscal year and currently budgeted obligations are funded.

“In our savings account, we have about $500,000,” Dean said. “We don’t have $1 million that we’re sitting on and we contributed, out of our savings account, almost $200,000 to city projects this year. We’re happy to do it. It is needed at this point and I think it is a good use of our funds. Next year, I fully support us participating in capital projects. I think it is needed and something we can use our funds for in a proactive manner.”

But while Dean supports those investments today, he said that the EDC must think long-term and ensure funds are available for other uses as the EDC grows as well.

“I personally am putting a caution flag up, that if we continue to do that on a year over year basis, we will go broke,” he said. “We will use all of our funds.”

Spreading the message
With a fund balance available, one area the Board talked about expanding its efforts was in advertising as a recruitment tool for new business.

Possibilities include new photography that could be used in materials, a marketing video and targeted advertising. Chapman mentioned the possibility of bringing back Freach Design, which developed the new city logo and tagline, to do some more EDC-focused planning.

“They could advise us on getting a really aggressive outbound advertising campaign about Liberty Hill,” he said.

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