Goldsboro City Council members heeded concerns voiced by residents during its review of the proposed 2019-20 city budget Thursday.
Council revisited issues residents raised during Monday’s budget public hearing ranging from discretionary funds, cellphone stipends and meal expenses to consultant fees during a budget workshop.
Councilman Mark Stevens said he did not see why council members needed $5,000 in discretionary funds and questioned how much discretionary money there is and why it was needed when there are so many nonprofits in the city that need help.
During council’s retreat in February, Councilman Antonio Williams requested $5,000 in discretionary funds to hold a block party in District 1 and suggested $5,000 be provided for each district.
Williams said he asked for the funds during the retreat because he felt like the districts were not getting what they needed and he wanted to bring his community together.
Councilman Bevan Foster said discretionary funds were not a bad thing to have as long as they were used fairly and not just in certain districts.
Councilman Gene Aycock said he planned to use his discretionary funds in the summer youth feeding program and is not in favor of doing away with the funds.
Councilman David Ham said he thought before the funds can be used, a request should be brought before council to keep everyone informed of the expenditures. None of the board members had a problem with Ham’s suggestion.
Stevens suggested lowering the discretionary fund to $1,000 per year for each council member. Williams said the amount would be inadequate for his community.
Mayor Chuck Allen suggested budgeting a sum of money in a discretionary pool, like $20,000, and allowing councilmen to take what they need for their district, as long as it is approved by the board.
Catherine Gwynn, finance director, explained that discretionary funds can only be used for the general good of a community, not to benefit individuals or small groups.
“It has to be something where there is a need and necessity that benefits the community,” she said.
Ron Lawrence, city attorney, added that something like a block party could come from the Community Relations Department budget but not discretionary funds, unless people from all the districts are able to attend the block party.
It was a consensus of council that a discretionary pool of $20,000 be set aside in the 2019-20 budget. Members of the council will not be able to use the funds until 2020 and funding decisions will need to be approved by the council.
When the council addressed the $720 cellphone stipend, Councilman Bill Broadaway said he didn’t think it should be in the budget.
According to the finance department, only Williams receives the stipend.
Stevens said for four years he never knew the cellphone stipend was even in the budget.
No vote was taken to do away with the stipend.
Foster also addressed the $6,770 earmarked for luncheon and diner meetings, saying it should be taken out of the budget, which he has maintained in the past.
“We don’t need it,” he said. “The money can be used for something else.”
Aycock, who voted against the meal fund the last time it was brought up, made a motion to no longer fund the meals. Foster seconded and it passed with only Broadaway voting in opposition.
It was also a consensus of the board to take $75,000 out of the city’s consultant fees.
The council will hold a final budget workshop before their next regular meeting on June 17. The budget could be approved at the regular meeting but council has until midnight June 30 to adopt the budget, which goes into effect on July 1.
The city’s 2019-20 proposed budget of $63.4 million does not include a property tax increase, and residential water and sewer rates are proposed to remain the same.