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Economic Development Board changes bylaws

By Brad Hicks |Erwin Bureau Chief | Johnson City Press
The Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County has enacted changes with the aim of bolstering membership and streamlining the audit process.
The county’s full economic development board met on Friday, Jan. 16, and members voted to change several board bylaws. One of the bylaws will change how the board’s fiscal year will run going forward.
Previously, Unicoi County’s economic development board has operated under a calendar year, with financial plans made for the period from January until the end of the year. At Friday’s meeting, the board approved a change that will see the economic development board operate under a fiscal year.
Tish Oldham, executive director of Unicoi County’s Joint Economic Development Board, said the economic development board’s fiscal year will match the fiscal years of local municipalities, which run from July 1 to June 30.
The economic development board’s previous bylaws stipulated that the board pass its budget in October for the financial year beginning the following January. With the change, Oldham said the economic development board should have a better idea of what type of contribution it will receive from each of the county’s municipalities for budgeting purposes. She also said the economic development board will start working on its budget in April of each year to present to the municipalities as they prepare their budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
To make the change work, Oldham said the economic development board will operate on a continuing budget until the start of the 2015-16 fiscal year, operating on funding approved for the 2014 year. Oldham said the economic development board had a total budget of around $157,000 for the 2014 year.
“So we’re basically going to live on the funds that we have for now until then,” Oldham said.
Oldham also said having the economic development board operate on a fiscal year will prove beneficial for auditing purposes.
“It also will help in auditing because the economic development board’s year is not cut in half against the fiscal year’s of the governmental units,” Oldham said. “And we did consider the fact that the private investors, who are usually business, they’re going to often be running on a calendar year, not fiscal year. We’re just going to have to get our requests in early enough in their calendar year to offer them the opportunity of membership so they can do their planning.”
Another amendment in the bylaws has resulted in a change to the board’s membership structure. This change will allow individuals to join the board as non-voting members, Oldham said.
“There’s a little bit of increase on investor members, but we’re also going to have new tiers of membership available for individuals to join the Economic Development Board,” she said. “It had been that we had only voting memberships available. It will now be voting and non-voting memberships available, and we’re trying to do that to encourage involvement and participation in the economic development board’s outreach.”
Oldham said the membership structure change was proposed after economic development officials looked at models from boards across the country, adding that the new structure has proven successful with economic development agencies from across the nation.
She also said the change was not made in order to compete with the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce but was made with the intention of involving more businesses interested in the long-term growth of Unicoi County.