05/28/06 — Chamber, city resolve differences

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Chamber, city resolve differences

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 28, 2006 2:06 AM

Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's concerns about funds for the coming year were allayed Friday when chamber officials and Goldsboro City Council met to resolve budget issues.

Chamber officials had been worried since council received the recommended 2006-07 fiscal year budget from City Manager Joe Huffman. Their concern -- the proposed budget excluded the $15,000 in membership dues they had requested.

At Friday's meeting, Chairman of the Chamber's Board of Directors Tom Buffkin said the city would be "sending the wrong message" to businesses and the community by declining its membership.

"The chamber represents the community and the business community," he said. "There needs to be a good working relationship between business and government."

Buffkin added these businesses need to be able to count on the city to help them get started and endure hard times. Through the money the city allocates to the chamber, they get that assistance.

"By the city being a part of the chamber, it helps us break down those walls for small businesses," he said.

Chamber Executive Director Steve Hicks attended Friday's meeting to make sure council members understood the importance of the organization's role in economic development. Council members were given a copy of the chamber's working budget and a list of programs that would be hurt by budget cuts.

Huffman said legal questions and miscommunication led to the chamber's concerns, adding that while nothing is yet in stone, the city plans to provide the $15,000 -- just not in the form of dues.

"It's a matter of accountability," he said. "The city will still support the chamber through a number of specific programs."

Simply supplying funds without an accounting of where the money is going raises legal questions, Huffman said. Still, he reiterated his plans to add funding back into the budget.

"Council said they will find a way to do it," he said. "Just not necessarily through dues. They didn't take any action today, but that money will be presented in the budget."

Despite recent controversy over the matter, Huffman said he believes the chamber and city work well together and maintain a good relationship.

"I don't think anyone wanted to hurt the chamber," he said. "We work with the chamber all the time. We're a partner in everything."

After the meeting, both Buffkin and Huffman said the issue had been resolved -- even if approval of the budget is more than a week away. And as to questions regarding Goldsboro's membership in the chamber, Buffkin said the matter will be discussed further.

"I'm not sure what the answer to that question is," he said. "We (chamber board members) haven't had a chance to get back together and discuss that."

But you can be sure they will, he added.