04/25/10 — City manager says tax hike likely

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City manager says tax hike likely

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 25, 2010 1:50 AM

A potential tax increase first hinted at during Monday's City Council meeting was discussed further Friday when members of the Goldsboro board came together to vote on whether or not to move forward with construction of a multi-million dollar recreation center downtown.

City Manager Joe Huffman told council members that the 2010-2011 budget would likely include a recommendation for a five-cent increase -- a move he characterized as a "survival measure."

"I think the city manager probably has to be the last person in the city who wants to see a tax increase. It's personal. I'm the one who recommends it ... and when you do that, you know there are people who are going to be very upset -- and that bothers me," Huffman said after the meeting. "But the other side of it is, we're at the point now where if we don't do something, unless something changes in the budget as we prepare it, if we don't do something this year, we would have to start talking about limiting services.

"So what I would ask (people who are against increasing taxes) would be, 'What services do we eliminate?' And that's where we have a problem."

But a potential tax increase is only one of the steps Huffman says it will take to ensure the city survives troubling economic times. He also expects to recommend a salary freeze and major cutbacks in the capital outlay arena.

"I still need to crunch the numbers so this is all very premature, but we're probably not looking at any increases as far as salaries next year," he said. "And I'm looking at changing certain positions ... and a lot of things like that."

The reason for the projected shortfall, he added, includes factors like increased costs associated with health care and retirement.

"But I do really think it's mostly about the amount of state revenue available," Huffman said. "When you look at the expenditures of the city, they are down, and the reason we have been spending less for two years in a row ... it's all attributed to how much revenue we have available."

So the party line at City Hall, at least for now, remains the same: A tax increase might just be the only way to continue business as usual in Goldsboro.

"I have no choice. I'm doing everything I can," Huffman said. "Unless we start cutting services, I don't see what else I can do."