06/08/10 — Council approves budget with two fee hikes

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Council approves budget with two fee hikes

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on June 8, 2010 1:46 PM

After months of debate, the Goldsboro City Council, at last, adopted the latest version of City Manager Joe Huffman's recommended 2010-11 budget Monday evening.

But the plan looked far different from when the board first reviewed it.

There will be no 5-cent tax increase, a proposal Huffman at one time called necessary to bring much-needed revenues into city coffers.

And some of the organizations that stood to lose funding under the original plan -- the Chamber of Commerce, Arts Council, WATCH and Wayne County Museum -- had it restored.

But tough economic times still took their toll.

A number of departments -- Building and Traffic, Planning, Sanitation and more -- will have to find a way to cut an additional $10,000 from their plans.

And the police and fire departments were asked to cut $25,000 in 2010-11

The Downtown Goldsboro Develop-ment Corp. was told that it would not receive funding for the Homebuyer's Assistance Program or the South Center Street Project.

And city taxpayers will take a hit, too, as the budget still includes increases for water and sewer service -- 15 percent and 5 percent respectively -- and a new recommendation to increase the fee for trash pickup by $2 a month.

City employees also stand to hurt -- the employee Christmas party and merit pay system were eliminated; salaries and vacant positions frozen.

The budget process began earlier than usual this year, as discussions about potential construction of a recreation center downtown prompted the city management team to look into the feasibility of doing so.

And as a vote on the future of the project approached -- the board swayed 4-3 in favor of not moving forward with plans that had seen more than $1 million already invested -- Huffman informed council members that he believed a tax increase would be necessary "with or without a recreation center."

To date, he has called the plan a "bare bones budget" several times and has had to recommend cuts in almost every area.

Of the $2.4 million requested for capital outlay projects -- from 10 new police cars to laptops for code enforcement officers -- only $357,000 will be funded, now that the council has adopted the budget as is.

But the board, itself, despite Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen's call for it to do so, did not take a cut.

Council members did not reduce their own stipends -- each, other than Mayor Al King, who nets more than $11,000 a year, will still get their $9,000 salary and the board will share more than $22,000 for miscellaneous expenses. An additional $5,000 for pre-meeting meals also will still be covered by city taxpayers.