05/10/05 — City: Tax hike could have been worse

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City: Tax hike could have been worse

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 10, 2005 1:49 PM

Goldsboro residents grumbling about a possible 5-cent increase in city property taxes might feel better to know it could have been much worse.

Finance officials say they trimmed more than $2.6 million in requests before the city's proposed 2005-06 budget was presented last week to the City Council.

City Manager Joe Huffman and Finance Director Richard Durham explained their reasons for turning down those requests at a briefing Monday night attended by council members and department heads.

Afterward, Mayor Al King told the group, "These all seem to be valuable services, and I wish that we could fund them all 100 percent, but we can only do what we can do.

"At least when you're told that you can't have something, you understand that you're not alone."

The budget includes about $2.9 million in major purchases, including equipping the new administration building.

But the budget planners declined an additional $1.5 million. These requests ranged from a new bike path to police radios to additional Christmas decorations.

City Councilman Charles Williams questioned why the city staff was willing to delay two improvements to Mina Weil Park -- a reconstruction of its bath house and resurfacing of tennis courts.

Recreation Director Neil Bartlett said that the existing bath house will need to be torn down and replaced, which would close the pool for months. The project would also cost at least $115,000, he said.

The city can make repairs for about $5,000, which would allow the bath house to last another year, he added.

Also, two of the park's four tennis courts are in terrible shape, much worse than the ones in Herman Park were before their recent renovation, he said. But the other courts are playable.

The budget would also replace nearly $1.1 million in capital equipment, even though about $723,000 in additional replacements would be delayed. For example, the Police Department asked to retire 14 patrol cars, but the budget would only allow 10. Some of the older cruisers would be put back into action by other city departments that requested vehicles.

The budget would create six new positions. Department heads requested another six employees.

The proposed budget totals $41,113,821, which is nearly $2 million more than the current budget. The 2005-06 fiscal year begins July 1.

Some of the increase is due to the $4.4 million City Hall addition, now under construction on Center Street. The city's 2005-06 payment for the construction will be $446,000, or about $220,000 more than this year.

Other City Hall-related expenses in the budget include $228,000 for furniture, $50,000 for a security system, and nearly $250,000 for technological improvements.

The city proposes to spend $502,000 next year on street lighting. About $22,000 would be spent in the annexation area.

Other annexation expenses total more than $800,000 to begin utility services and to provide fire, police and other protection. Revenues would only equal $516,000 next year.

The proposed budget is based on a proposed increase in the property tax rate -- from 60-cents-per-$100 valuation to 65-cents. That would mean a $35 hike for the owner of a $70,000 home; $60 for a $120,000 home; and $100 for a $200,000 home.

City residents also pay Wayne County property taxes.

Sewer rates would increase 15 percent.

The City Council has another budget workshop scheduled Thursday morning.