05/15/08 — Goldsboro City Council says no to tax hike

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Goldsboro City Council says no to tax hike

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on May 15, 2008 2:12 PM

The Goldsboro City Council agreed at a budget work session Wednesday that it would not increase the current property tax rate for 2008-09.

City Manager Joe Huffman had proposed a 5-cent increase earlier this year to balance the budget. The current tax rate is 65 cents per $100 property valuation.

But council members said Wednesday that they would find other ways to come up with the necessary money or ways to cut the proposed budget for next year.

"Definitely not," Mayor Al King and Councilman Chuck Allen each said, when asked about the proposed hike.

"Read our lips," several other councilmen said. "No tax increase."

The council has been working toward making final preparations for the 2008-2009 budget and has been working towards moving money around and cutting expenditures. City Manager Huffman had proposed the tax hike earlier this year as a way to balance the city's budget but council members have been working to find ways to move money around and cut expenses wherever possible.

Even in the early stages of budget discussions, council members had said that a tax increase would have to be a last resort.

On Wednesday, they said they didn't want to put another cost on families that are already hurting because of the rising price of gas and a weakened economy.

One of the biggest problems the council faces is debt service and other expenditures in connection with the Paramount Theatre, which totaled $433,000.

Since members didn't want to draw down the balance of the general fund, they decided to look at withdrawing $333,000 from the occupancy tax fund -- made up of taxes paid by visitors who rent hotel rooms in the city as well as other travel and tourism funds -- and withdrawing the other $100,000 from the city's general fund.

The occupancy tax fund would still have an estimated balance of $100,351 on June 30, 2009 -- the end of the 2008-2009 fiscal year -- and that balance may increase. A one-cent increase in the occupancy tax is still in legislation, but if it is approved, revenues from the fund likely will increase.

Some council members don't believe there needs to be a hefty amount in that fund anyway.

"If we are using it for travel and tourism, we shouldn't have a lot of money in there anyway. We should be spending it," Allen said.

Other members agreed that the majority of the Paramount Theatre debt needed to come out of the occupancy tax fund, but they didn't want the entire $433,000 coming out of that fund.

They also discussed whether or not to include items left undecided from the last budget work session in the budget.

Members decided to include $30,000 for the Seymour Support Council but take out $25,000 for a sport utility vehicle for the fire department. The council also agreed to hold off on decisions for the renovation of the Mina Weil Park tennis courts and building improvements to W.A. Foster Center until a presentation is made at Monday night's work session on the current status of the city's recreational parks and facilities.

At the council's last work session, it decided to include $862,148 more in the budget for next year. That would include $500,000 more for fuel costs, a $20,000 donation for the WATCH health program, $22,148 for the Wayne County Animal Shelter and $20,000 for the home buyers and business incentive program. Council members took out $300,000 for storm drainage improvements, a new tractor and street resurfacing.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at the City Council meeting Monday night.