05/15/11 — City Council unveils budget proposal

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City Council unveils budget proposal

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on May 15, 2011 1:50 AM

Cuts to the city's budget, including the continued freezing of vacant positions, brought about heated discussion during the City Council's budget work session Tuesday.

District 4 Councilman the Rev. Charles Williams was particularly outspoken against the changes, asking if the frozen positions, which include four police officers, were causing problems for the individual departments.

"We haven't noticed any decline in our service levels," interim City Manager Tasha Logan said. "If there comes a situation where departments are running into problems, then at that point we'll come back before council."

That led Williams to question whether the frozen positions were putting a greater workload on the workers still on staff, which Ms. Logan said was a sign of the times.

"I think across our organization we've had to take on more responsibility," she said.

"And yet we're not giving them any more money," Williams said as the conversation turned toward other topics.

One of the line items that is sure to get some attention at the next budget work session is street paving. The council approved a $498,911.60 contract with the S. T. Wooten Corp. to resurface the 13 sections of road the Planning Department deemed as the highest priority for repair in the first phase of a three-step measure to repair Goldsboro's roads.

In the proposed budget, the $552,000 requested for street paving is not provided for, which Finance Director Kaye Scott said would mean no street paving projects this year, although she expected the council to take a second look at it.

The budget shows a Civic Center fund balance of $1,936,106 from which the cost of the building purchase from the Arts Council of Wayne County would be deducted. Although it's up to council to decide, Mrs. Scott said the funding for both the purchase ($500,000) and the renovations to the building ($1.4 million) would come from that fund.

"We would be spending a large portion of it," she said, noting that whether the council wanted to pay for it all at once or over time would be a factor.

The council would need to request a budget amendment each time it wanted to appropriate funding for renovation projects if it decides to do the repairs over time.

The budget allocates $21,600 for lobbying in Washington, D.C. to Marlowe & Co., which helped to acquire funding for the Union Station renovation.

The budget also includes an estimated $1.186 million of attrition.

Attrition, or not filling positions when they become vacant, this past fiscal year netted the city $661,030, mostly due to the freezing of 14 positions. Mrs. Scott said the additional $524,970 in attrition could be covered by freezing an additional 10 or so positions. She said delaying job postings by a month to determine whether a position should be refilled or not would assist with the process.

Departmental budgets varied in the proposed budget, with some receiving additional funds and others receiving cuts, but overall, the general fund's total rose by $10,323 while the utility fund total decreased by $108,492.

The proposed budget would essentially end the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corporation's business incentive grant as Julie Thompson's request for $24,000 to fund the grant was denied. The City Council has asked the DGDC to look into funding a business recruiter position from its present budget, which meant reallocating $11,000 from the DGDC general fund which is used to supplement business incentive grant funding.

Ms. Thompson said the requested amount would have funded about five business grants. Her organization has given out five such grants since January of this year in the first, full fiscal year of city funding for the program, and though she said she hasn't had time to work out an opinion on the budget, Ms. Thompson sees the present course as a more difficult route to bringing in businesses.

"To me, if you have a real interest in recruiting business downtown, it's easier to fund the incentive program than a recruiter," she said.

The city approved $7,000 for fiber connections for the DGDC's new building.

In Public Utilities, the budget allows for the replacement of the under bridge and sand for filter No. 3 at the city's water reclamation plant, although it didn't provide funding for the same operation on filter No. 1. The filters, which remove remaining microorganisms in the water that neutralize pollutants, are recommended to be replaced every five to seven years.

Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear said because of the preventative maintenance her department takes into account in its 10-year plans, the filter replacement isn't dire.

"If we don't get funding this year, it can be put off another year," she said, adding that filter No. 1 was replaced two or three years ago.

What does have her department a little concerned, however, is the price of fuel and chemicals for treating the water, which have been rising as of late.

The Information Technology Department will receive $123,322 for an initiative that will hopefully extend the life of its computers in the form of a virtual desktop system as well as replacement computers for the department's oldest models. The system allows city computers to boot from a server instead from its own operating system and hard drive, allowing older computers with outdated drivers and processors to run newer programs, like Windows 7.

"The server has your desktop, and the applications that you use. You can go to any desktop and log in and you get your stuff," said Scott Williams, director of IT. "The model is easier to manage and cheaper overall for the municipality."

The budget also provides for the installation of surveillance cameras at the fuel island at the maintenance complex on Clingman Street where the city's vehicles and Gateway buses refuel. There are already cameras that monitor the fuel delivery, and though Williams said there hadn't been any issues with refueling, he said the 24/7 monitoring was a good thing to have from an audit standpoint.

Human Resources would receive $74,000 to continue funding its occupational nurse salary and its health maintenance program, but is not recommended for funding that would allow for software permitting job applicants to apply for city jobs online.

The building and traffic division and cemetery received no line items requested in the proposed budget. Building and traffic asked for five budget items totalling $135,400 while the cemetery division's request for an additional $10,000 riding mower was denied.

The fire department's request for $27,500 to implement global positioning system software was denied, along with four other line items, although $44,583 for fire hose replacements, new radios and air packs was approved plus a $30,000 engine overhaul for Ladder 1 and Engine 2 fire trucks.

The public hearing on the budget will be held at Monday's City Council meeting. Further budget work sessions will be planned following the hearing based on the amount of public input received during it.

Council delayed the city's deadline for an approved budget to June 20 in anticipation of changes in state funding.