Up until two months ago, the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) had a reserve fund of $100,000, an exact match to its $100,000 budget. When board member Matt Bateman suggested lowering the reserve amount in order to free up some additional funds, the wheels started to turn and once new members came on to the board, things started to happen. Member Josh Drake supported lowering the amount as well and soon, the entire board voted to change the reserve to $50,000.
At Monday night's meeting, the board began to test the waters concerning the extra money that should result from the change. The discussion stemmed from an issue regarding a blog describing town events on http://www.discoverfranklin.com/. Jessica Mason from Premiere Marketing offered to arrange for a writer to put together a blog twice a month for $150 per month where one blog entry would cost $100 per month.
At the urging of Bateman, the board decided to consider other businesses in the area that may be able to offer the services at a lower price, but in the mean time, spend $100 to go ahead and get the blogs started.
“I think the big issue is whether we go over the budget of $100,000,” said Mike Gruberman. “Or we could just tell the (town) board that we need to amend the budget.”
Member Summer Woodard pointed to other avenues that could be taken in order to get the $100 such as removing it from another line item in the budget.
“I can propose it, but I'll have to go through the finance officer and see where she would like to take this out of,” said Woodard. “I spoke to her earlier and she said that if we decide to do it, we need to specify where we want to take it out of because we've committed a budget to Google Adwords and Facebook.”
Drake made the motion to take $100 from the reserve to fund the blog for the time being with the condition that if the request were to be rejected, the money come from the Google Adwords budget. Gruberman seconded the motion with Bateman voting in agreement. Woodard, Vickie Springer and Cheryl Pullium opposed the motion leaving Chairman Candy Arvey to cast the deciding vote to decline the motion.
“I don't think we should take the money from the reserve just yet,” Arvey said. Springer pointed out that the precedent is set when they take money from the reserve as her reasoning for opposing the motion. “I just have a problem with taking it out of the reserve. To me, reserve means just that, reserve,” she said.
“But we have another $50,000 over the reserve amount since we voted to set it at 50 that is not budgeted,” said Drake. “If we take it out of our Google Adwords then we're just taking money away from out marketing.”
Arvey asked the board if they thought it would be easiest to go ahead and move the money from the Adwords and then come back and add money back to the budget from the reserve if they needed to.
“What I'm saying is that if you cut that down, you're cutting that down today. You can't go back at the end of the year and add money to marketing,” Drake told the board.
Gruberman then made a motion to take the $100 from the project budget, the money that goes towards festivals and events. Drake seconded.
“I just think it makes more sense to take the money from something that is sending people to the website like Facebook or Google Adwords,” said Woodard. “Why don't you take from these two things instead of taking the money out of the project money that has nothing to do with getting people to the website?”
The board voted on the motion which carried with a vote of 4-2 with Gruberman, Drake, Bateman and Springer voting yes and Woodard and Pullium opposing.
The next TDA meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 10. The board will also be accepting bids from a blog writer in the meantime. More information can be found at http://www.franklinnc.com/.