Greensboro Budget Talk

City Budget Briefing

This morning I went to the city hall and listened to City Manager Ed Kitchens and City Budget Director Larry Davis tell the Greensboro City Council members about the proposed 2006-07 budget. There were some questions and some discussion from council members.
One thing that was discussed was the possible loss of transit funds from the federal
government. The council was told that if Greensboro loses the current transportation money coming from the feds, city taxes will have to go up 25 cents per 100 dollar assessed value on property. This is just to maintain current service.
One thing that wasn’t discussed was the expected transit funds from the federal government. The city expects to get money to fund 80 percent of the cost of bus service to connect all the city college campuses with each other and with downtown. Students would ride free on all city buses. The colleges will help pay for the service after a few years. All colleges in the area, with the exception of NCA&T, are ok with the plan. Sneaked into this plan is funding for a downtown circulator that has been talked about for several years (AKA a downtown trolley).
Maybe we can find out about this at a later briefing.
The city fire dept. needs 30 new folks, 29 new firefighters for the 2 new fire stations and one employee at the city-county combined 9-1-1-center. Some money will be used for training so that the new firefighters will be ready to move in as soon as the new stations are ready. All agreed that fire protection is a necessary service that should be funded.
I learned in other meetings that several other stations are projected to be built and staffed in the near future to service newly annexed areas and older stations will be replaced or updated. I think that most of this will be paid from bonds.
It was also noted today that next year (after the city elections) debt service will go up because of bonds approved in 2000.
January 2006 (after city elections) water rates will increase by 10 percent.
There will also be an increase in expenses in the 2007 budget to cover some of the costs associated with the trash transfer station. This is now referred to as the Refuse Transfer Station. There was no talk about the fact that the dump (AKA the city landfill) will still be used for Construction and Demolition Waste.
Sales tax revenue into the city till is expected to rise by about 6 percent next year. Retail sales in Guilford County have been flat for several years but are expected to improve. The Guilford County Commission controls how much money goes to municipal governments out of the county sales tax revenue. And who knows what that bunch will do.
Tom Phillips again suggested that the city take a look at fees vs taxes. He mentioned Cable TV as a good place to start. He also thinks that the council should take a second look at low interest loans to businesses locating or expanding in the central business district downtown. There was some discussion about this. I heard Councilman Phillips tell Mayor Holliday, “I’m going to vote against it, anyway.”
There was the usual discussion about how Park and Rec money should be spent. And some more discussion about who should pay for maintenance of the new downtown park. The City Manager advised against accepting a donation of the park by the current owners because the city had no part in planning the park and the costs associated with maintaining it. He said that the city can put a cap on what they will pay if the park belongs to someone else, but if the city owns the park, all costs associated with it will have to be the responsibility of the taxpayers.
There was some more talk, but at noon some of the council members had other things to do, so the meeting broke up until later in the week.

2 comments:

Sandy Carmany said...

Diane,
Thanks for reporting on yesterday's session.

I can address the (hopeful, has not been approved yet)transit funding for University Connector Service. It is to come from what is known as a CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) grant. The use of this grant money is restricted and can only be used for the proposed project, not on normal operating costs. So whether we get the grant or not, the money could not be used for regular GTA operations.

The side benefit of the University service is that since GTA's ridership numbers will go up significantly when the college students start using the service, GTA's other regular federal funding should go up in future years since the federal funding formula is based on ridership numbers.

diane said...

Sandy,
I personally think that we need better bus service in Greensboro and inter-city service in the Triad area. Money could be found in the city budget and from funds from the state and feds to provide more buses, more bus routes and more frequent service as well as extended hours of service. The college plan is a good start to add routes, get more riders on some underused routes and a way to add more frequent service to overcrowded routes. Cutting some city budget expenses on items that provide benefits to a few could be used to provide better bus service to many. As public transportation becomes more convenient, more people will see it as an acceptable alternative to “one person - one car” , as more economical , more convenient and more environmentally friendly.
How about individual citizen funding of some transit services. I was thinking about a campaign that would try to get people to take the bus. Maybe: "Ride it once and you'll be back."
Just think - if only half the citizens of Greensboro took one bus ride a year around $100,000 would be added to our transit funds. And if only a quarter of those took only 1 bus ride a month, and so on and so on. There is almost no end to the prospects.