05/17/10 — Goldsboro City Council will hear comments on budget

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Goldsboro City Council will hear comments on budget

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 17, 2010 1:51 PM

Goldsboro residents will get their opportunity to weigh in on City Manager Joe Huffman's proposed 2010-11 budget during a public hearing on the matter set for this evening.

And while it remains unclear if Huffman has, as requested by several members of the City Council, reworked the plan into one that does not include a tax increase, doing so, he said last week, would only mean more cuts.

It is, after all, already a "bare bones budget," the city manager said.

In its current form, Huffman's recommendation includes a 5-cent tax increase and increased rates for water and sewer, measures he said would raise much- needed revenue required to fund, among other things, services, salaries and debt payments.

But the taxpayers are not the only ones who would take a hit should the budget gain the council's approval as is.

A salary freeze for city employees would be put into effect and their annual Christmas party and the merit pay system would be canceled.

And every department head was told the majority of capital requests -- from 10 new police cars to laptops for code enforcement officers -- were denied -- of the roughly $2.4 million requested for these items, only $357,000 worth would be funded.

Organizations that rely, to some extent, on allocations from the city and county governments also would suffer under the proposed plan.

The ArtSmarts program would be eliminated and groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Arts Council, Rebuilding Broken Places, WATCH, Wayne County Museum and Waynesborough Park would receive 20 percent less in funding than they did last year.

But during the council's first budget work session last week, Huffman said it could be -- and would be if there was no tax increase -- much worse.

So when he was asked to go back and put together a plan that did not include one, he warned the board what that might mean: Perhaps cutting services, closing the municipal golf course or requiring employees to take furloughs.

"I'm not saying I want to do this. My recommendation is ... a 5-cent tax increase," Huffman said during that meeting. "But you're asking what I would do without 5 cents."

Tonight's meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m. inside the second-floor council chambers within historic City Hall.