02/04/09 — City reports some revenue, collections up so far

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City reports some revenue, collections up so far

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on February 4, 2009 1:46 PM

Goldsboro residents are paying their property taxes.

And many are keeping up with their garbage bills.

But some aren't buying as much at retail stores in the city as expected, at least up until November.

And they aren't building or using recreation facilities as much either.

The city has two funds -- the general fund and the utility fund.

The general fund is used for operating costs -- police, fire, public works, recreation, administration and finance, for example -- but not water and sewer.

The utility fund is used for treating water for drinking and usage, providing sewer service and keeping up the facilities for both services.

The city's current revenue stream in the general fund is looking much better than officials expected it would at this time of the year.

But the utility fund isn't in as good of shape.

Goldsboro Finance Director Kaye Scott gave a financial update to City Council members at their work session Monday evening, and the news was optimistic for the general fund.

"We are currently $366,408 over where we thought we'd be with revenues at this point in time," she said about the numbers from July through December.

A big boost to the numbers came from residents paying their property taxes.

Collections for property taxes were up $513,279 over what was expected, and delinquent tax collections were up $42,798 for the same time period.

Many have caught up on their delinquent vehicle tax, but not everyone has paid current vehicle tax yet.

Collections from delinquent vehicle taxes are up more than $17,000, but current vehicle tax collections are down more than $45,000.

Wayne County collects the taxes and disburses money to the city for a portion of those taxes that come from city residents.

Still, Ms. Scott hopes to see tax revenue numbers rise as collection amounts come in from January.

Another boost to revenue numbers was the utility franchise tax -- a tax on certain public utilities paid to the city from the state -- which is up more than $285,000 from what was expected.

More people are keeping their garbage bills up to date, too, with an increase to the general fund budget of more than $32,000.

People can afford to pay their garbage bills more so than their water or sewer bills since garbage is less expensive, Ms. Scott said.

But not every line item in the city's budget is up.

Many are down, mostly due to the economy.

"People just don't have the money to pay for things. Some of them have lost their jobs. ... Everyone has had to cut back," Ms. Scott said.

Sales tax revenues -- money that comes from people spending money on state tax in Goldsboro -- have hit the city's revenue column hard.

Up until November, sales tax revenues were down more than $161,900.

But Ms. Scott is hoping that when the city receives December's sales tax money come Feb. 15 -- since the state's disbursement is always two months behind -- the numbers will be closer to what was anticipated.

"When I was out shopping at Christmas, I saw people out," she said. "Now I don't know if they were shopping or just looking, so we will see what the numbers say."

Building has nearly halted in the city, she added.

Building permits were down $22,530 from what was expected, and plumbing, gas and electrical inspections that are necessary in the building process were down more than $65,000.

"It's the economy," Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra said. "Nobody's doing nothing."

Employees at the golf course weren't seeing as many people either, mostly because people don't have disposable income to use toward recreation, Ms. Scott said. The weather over the last few months has also hurt the course, with having only a few non-rainy days for people to partake in the outdoor sport.

Golf course cart fees were down $36,453; green fees were down more than $19,000; membership dues were down more than $11,000; driving range fees were down more than $2,000; and pro shop sales were down more than $3,000.

But the general fund fared far better than the utility fund.

Through the same time period -- July through December -- utility fund revenues were down $427,972.

The largest decrease in what was anticipated to this point in time, Ms. Scott said, came from sewer charges. More than half of the revenue deficiency came from those charges, which were down $262,175.

Sewer costs more than water, so many people choose to pay the lesser of the two if they can't afford both, Ms. Scott said.

Still, water charges were down $43,268.

City residents can be one month late with their water and sewer bills and still receive service. But when the customers are delinquent on their bills two months in a row, the city can cut off those services.

"We have been cutting off more than 100 people a week," Ms. Scott said. "We have been doing that for a while now, a few months."

Large consumers of the services have tried to cut back on their sewer and water services to cut their own costs, but those cutbacks hurt the city's revenue.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base cut back on its use and so did Case Farms.

Those two consumer cutbacks drew the utility fund revenues down by more than $70,000.

Both the general fund and the utility fund have one line item that is the same -- investment interest -- and both of those items saw a decrease as well.

The city's investments are mostly in CDs, and the interest rate recently fell to 1.4 percent -- a rate that Ms. Scott said finance officials were calling for but no one expected to come true.

In the general fund, investment interest was down $139,479, while in the utility fund, investment interest was down $173,125.

Once the interest rate goes back up, those line items will go back up, Ms. Scott said. Officials will just have to wait until that happens, she added.

Still, the finance director said she is proud of the city's departments.

"They have seen our need to cut back and have done it," she said. "Sometimes you say things and wonder if people are listening. They are listening. They are only spending where it is absolutely necessary."

In the first six months of the fiscal year -- from July through December -- departments have only spent 45.1 percent of their budgeted allowance in the general fund and 45.9 percent of their utility fund allowance. Expected spending in a year without economic turmoil would be around 50 percent or more.

Ms. Scott told council members that she will return with another financial update at the City Council retreat in two weeks.