05/16/06 — Council hears comments on budget plan

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Council hears comments on budget plan

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on May 16, 2006 1:50 PM

Goldsboro residents had a chance Monday night to express their opinions on the city's proposed budget for 2006-2007 at a public hearing held by the City Council.

City Finance Director Richard Durham presented the $42.5 million recommended budget to the council beforehand. It calls for no increase in the existing tax rate.

Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Steve Hicks asked to clarify the amount of money to be allocated to the city's Travel and Tourism Department and the chamber.

Hicks said if the amount of money provided to the chamber is limited, the organization would not be able to market the city and county as effectively as it would like.

"It's extremely important to look at this as an economic development tool," Hicks said.

Debbie Pittman of the city's Travel and Tourism Advisory Council told council members that a reduced appropriation for that organization would hurt promotion efforts for such events as Wings Over Wayne and the North Carolina Pickle Festival.

Mary Ann Dudley of the Boys and Girls Club urged the council to increase funding for the club, citing the good it does for the city's youths.

Durham's presentation outlined some proposed changes to the budget.

The finance department had about $39,000 set aside to hire a grant writer in the next year. During the council's February retreat, council members said they wanted a new position to improve the city staff and to find more money for city projects. The money intended for a grant writer was taken out of the budget in the past week, but, Durham said, about $30,000 remains in the proposed budget for a grant-writing program.

Also, the finance department budgeted about $46,000 to hire a Web site developer. City Manager Joe Huffman said the council wants to move forward with its technology program and that the person in the new position would provide technical support and upkeep the city's Web site, among other duties.

Another change added $35,000 for the Wayne County Public Library system, bringing the library's total proposed appropriation to $174,000. Bill Smith, chairman of the library board of directors, thanked the council for its support.

Other additions to the budget include $5,100 for landscaping at the new city hall and $6,000 more for the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Support Council, bringing the proposed total appropriation to $30,000.

Durham noted that lawmakers in Raleigh are considering lowering local governments' sales tax authority. If legislators reduce the sales tax by a quarter of a cent, Durham said, it would have a negative effect on the city's budget.

"We are already going to fall short of what we are expecting to collect and a decrease would affect it more," Durham said.

Some costs could be offset by a cost increase in some city services, he said.

The proposed budget would leave the current property tax rate at 65 cents per $100 worth of property. But Durham said he is recommending an increase in the commercial refuse pickup fee from $3.14 to $4 per cubic yard. He also recommended increasing the sewer rates from $3.63 to $4.17 per 100 cubic feet.

The total recommended budget includes money from property taxes, user fees, the state-approved sales tax, shared revenues, capital returns and withdrawals from the city's fund balance, Durham said.