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Posted: 01/01/14

DDA hires director,
adjusts budget in 2013

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      The Romeo Downtown Development Authority (DDA) brought on a new executive director while in the midst of budget troubles in 2013.
       The executive director position was vacated in November 2012, with Village President, DDA liaison and DDA Secretary Mike Lee taking on some of the responsibilities until it was filled.
       The DDA began its search in January with the hopes of filling the position in February. However, following some interviews, the hiring committee re-evaluated the position and defined the role and responsibilities as a part-time job.
       The $20,000 employee budget, along with the rest of the DDA's $213,550 budget, was approved by the Village Board of Trustees in June.
       Director talks resumed in July when the DDA voted to increase the employee expenses by $4,000 to raise the hourly pay.
       "We do have one candidate in mind that I think is really the right fit, but we probably will not be able to retain that candidate without a salary increase discussion," said DDA Director Matt Ponke.
       Difficulties arose when the DDA learned in August it would lose $14,500 of its Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue. DDA Treasurer Carol Humphreys said the loss was mainly from Bruce Township's TIF being $3,000 instead of $17,000.
       DDA Chairman Randy Seidel said the DDA approved of an adjusted budget in Aug. 14, shrinking funding in downtown decorations, marketing and other areas.
       "It's not an elimination of anything that we're currently doing, it's a reduction in some of the things that we're doing today," he said.
       The DDA voted on Aug. 16 to approve of hiring Judy Sproat with the $24,000 budget. Lee objected, saying DDA was supporting the position while losing revenue and cutting from other areas.
       "I just think what the village sees as a whole, and not just the Central Business District, is they see the Christmas lights, they see the flowers," he said. "They don't see the director."
       The Village Board of Trustees voted 6-1 on Aug. 19 in favor of the hire, with Lee dissenting.
       The budget caused a squeeze on other DDA activities, such as leaving only $11,000 for projects. One such project under consideration was housing dumpsters in the northeast quadrant of downtown, possibly by building a dumpster corral. The last dumpster corral, located in the southwest quadrant, cost roughly $38,000.
       Sproat began as executive director on Sept. 17. She formerly served as executive director for the Holly DDA, the marketing director for the Rochester DDA and as planning and economic development director for New Baltimore.
       "I'm passionate about traditional downtowns, especially small business owners and helping them out in any way I can," she said.
       Humphreys and Sproat reviewed the budget, and in doing so discovered the decrease was actually an accounting error. Instead of a loss, Humphreys said in November the DDA would have its original budget that was approved in June.
       "It was just an error, anyone can make them," Humphreys said.
       She asked that the board change the budget back to its original $213,550, but the board decided to wait until it received the funding from Bruce Township.
       The DDA voted on Dec. 4 to revert to its original 2013-14 budget. Humphreys said the budget results in more TIF revenue for the Village of Romeo, increasing its collection from $40,000 to the original $65,000.


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