Six members of the City Council and Mayor Holliday began work on the 2006-2007 Greensboro City budget by listening to a presentation by top-level staff while looking at charts and graphs that most of them did not seem to understand.
The bottom line of the 2 1/2 hour meeting yesterday seemed to be that the City of Greensboro needs a raise (from taxpayers) or needs to cut-out some services (offered to citizens). Several reasons for this lack of adequate funding included the loss of money from a change in the way local sales tax money is distributed in Guilford County and a sluggish economy.
Although revenue from building permits had the strongest annual growth rate in recent history, Greensboro has had an increase in area and population in the past several years and tax revenue hasn't kept up with costs of providing services.
Greensboro charges no "impact fees" for developments that put strain on certain areas. These types of fees are charged by some cities and counties in North Carolina, but their legality is currently being tested in the courts.
Property tax increases are based on cents per $100 of property value. The presentation yesterday concluded that the city will need to increase taxes to pay for services that are already being offered. The increased revenue generated by the proposed tax increases do not include any additional services.
Some projected tax increases:
*2 cents for trash transfer station
*1 cent for health and inspections
*1 cent for current debt service (does not include proposed bonds for fire stations)
Tom Phillips mentioned several times that the budget planning process should include looking at each and every city department. He admitted that even if the process starts now there probably will be no impact on the 2006 budget. He thinks that looking at each department will take a long time and should start soon.
City Manager Mitch Johnson said that even if the council manages to save a little here and there, the overall effect will be small. Phillips disagrees. He thinks that some places where the city can cut expenses are obvious and should be looked at first.
There will be a public hearing on the budget in March. Citizens are invited to give input on the budget. These budget hearing are usually long and boring and generally speakers are from groups who want money for their projects. I suspect the one this year will be about the same.
(2/8/06)CORRECTION: City Councilwoman Sandy Carmany informs me that the meeting for citizen in-put on the budget is Feb. 21. The March 21 meeting is for citizen in-put about possible bond issues to be placed on the November ballot. Sorry.
BTW: You can e-mail your suggestions here or here: http://www.greensboro-nc.gov/CityGovernment/forms/budgetinput.htm