05/19/09 — City: No tax hike this year

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City: No tax hike this year

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on May 19, 2009 1:46 PM

Goldsboro residents will not face a tax hike this year, but utility bills for city water and refuse services will be going up, the City Council has decided after weeks of budget discussions.

The council held a public hearing on the proposed budget Monday night. Council members are expected to vote on the budget at their June 1 meeting.

Under the proposed spending plan, residents using city water will see a 15-percent increase in their bills, and an additional $3.75 hike in the base rate. Refuse rates will increase about $3.25 per month for residential customers, while commercial dumpster pickup will increase from $4.15 to $5.50 per cubic yard. Sewer rates also would go up by 5 percent.

City utilities customers can expect to see their total monthly bills increase by about $10 per month this year, and another $10 per month next year. The increases will help bring the water and refuse operations closer to self-sufficiency, officials said.

Health insurance rates for city employees will not go up, but the city will save more than $500,000 by removing longevity pay and instituting a merit-based pay system for employees.

The city expects to receive stimulus funding to help pay for the city stoplight signalization project, and will likely be able to place $1.6 million back into the general fund once the money comes through, said Randy Guthrie, development services director.

"This is a very positive step," Guthrie said.

The approved budget also includes a full year of debt payment for the Paramount Theater and a half year payment for the Recreation Center, with offset revenue with HUD funds.

One person spoke at the public hearing Monday night.

Frankie Lewis said the proposed $50,000 for demolition of dilapidated buildings is too low.

Mayor Al King said this budget has been the most challenging he has worked on since being elected to the council.

Council member Jackie Warrick agreed.

"This was my eighth or ninth one, and I think it was the toughest one I've ever done," Warrick said.

King thanked city staff members for their work on the budget.

"Our staff, they all pitched in, they dug very, very deeply. I want to thank this board for really standing up and doing the right thing," King said.

Goldsboro's government is in good shape compared to many other municipalities across the state, King noted.

Council member Bob Waller remarked that the city generates 80-85 percent of the sales tax revenue in Wayne County.

"I think people need to know that," Waller said. "But that is only 12 percent of our budget."

Even though the city generates most of the sales tax in the county, "we don't get 50 percent of the revenue," Waller pointed out.

In other business, council members discussed changing several intersections on Mulberry Street to four-way stops. City engineer Marty Anderson presented to the council during the work session the possibility for the redesign, citing safety concerns about the residential areas of the road.

However, Waller said he had received phone calls from some residents who are against the idea.

The council did not take any action on the proposal.

The council held four other public hearings, all dealing with zoning proposals.

One person spoke in favor of a rezoning proposal that would allow the Eastern Carolina Regional Housing Authority to construct a building at the Northeast corner of South Slocumb Street and Seymour Drive.

"We're outgrown our existing space," Executive Director Robin Lancaster said.

Linda Williams of Clayton, the records clerk for the Sheepfold Church of Jesus, spoke in favor of a proposed rezoning that would allow the church to renovate and put into church use two empty houses next to the church.

No one spoke during the public hearings on a rezoning proposed by R. E. Godbey for the southeast corner of East Ash Street and Piedmont Airline Road, or on a proposal by Billy Sutton to put a window tinting business on the north side of U.S. 70 East between East Ash Street Extension and Miller's Chapel Road.

The council voted unanimously to deny a request by U.S. Cellular to build a 199-foot cell-phone tower on the south side of Tommy's Road between U.S. 117 North and Dean's Lane.

The company will probably not pursue another location for the tower, official said.

"They're not interested in relocating at this time," said Randy Guthrie, the city inspections director.

The council approved consent agenda items including a supplemental agreement for the use of stimulus funds for the signalization project, closing parts of Center Street for the Dillard/Goldsboro Alumni and Friends parade on Saturday, May 23, revising the city personnel policy to reflect federally-mandated leave for family care and condemnation of seven dilapidated buildings.

However, there is no money left in this year's budget to remove the houses, city inspector Ed Cianfarra said.

"My budget is spent out," he said.

But mayor pro tem Chuck Allen said the houses must come down.

"I don't care how you do it," Allen said.

It costs about $3,000 to demolish a property, Cianfarra said.

Kaye Scott said that she will look for the money to demolish the houses.