The Goldsboro City Council came close to slashing its own health care benefits during the first round of fiscal 2018-19 budget deliberations Monday.
Councilman David Ham recommended a repeal of the council's 2017 decision to add a health care stipend for the seven council members, which amounted to almost a 50 percent boost in pay. The proposed cut would slash $42,924 from the budget in the coming year.
"I'd like to see us repeal that," Ham said. "I think that our base salaries and our expense allocations are competitive with our like cities.
"Speaking for myself, I never wanted to take this job for salary."
A year ago, the council voted to increase its pay from $12,000 to $17,928 and the mayor's pay from $16,200 to $22,128, with the increase covering the estimated cost of health insurance.
Councilman Antonio Williams disagreed with the health stipend cut.
"We use a lot of resources," Williams said. "I know I do. Our resources are not comparable for today's businesses and it's not big money. So, what we're trying to resolve, it's not going to help us help our community."
Councilman Bevan Foster said he doesn't have a problem with cutting the council's pay. He also suggested that the council cut travel expense reimbursements. Foster said he already pays for travel out of his own pocket.
Foster added that the council should cut back other budget expenses and invest in programs that will combat poverty.
"I say let's go through this and let's cut out a lot of things and then let's put that money toward poverty," Foster said. "I would love to put that money toward poverty, and I'd love to cut out a whole lot of other things."
Ham made a motion to cut the health insurance stipend, which was seconded by Councilman Bill Broadaway. The council pulled back from voting on the change, however, after Mayor Chuck Allen said it needs to form a list of budgetary changes that can be considered prior to adopting the budget.
The council did approve changes in its allocations to local agencies and nonprofits. The budget includes $448,129 in allocations to 11 agencies.
Williams suggested new funding for Rebuilding Broken Places, a local community development corporation. The organization requested $4,425, an amount that was not included in agency allocations. Williams said the organization provides programs to children in need.
"Honestly, a little more than $4,000 would help them do what they can do," Williams said.
Councilman Mark Stevens suggested a $5,000 allocation to Rebuilding Broken Places and said he'd also like to see the HGDC Community Crisis Center, which works with people in need, receive city funding.
In an effort to fund the organizations, the council decided to cut three agencies by $5,000 each. The Arts Council of Wayne County is set to receive $25,000 instead of $30,000, the Wayne County Museum will receive $10,000 instead of $15,000 and the Waynesborough Park will receive $20,000 instead of $25,000.
The council decided to provide $5,000 each to Rebuilding Broken Places, the HGDC Community Crisis Center and the Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County.
No other changes were approved by the council, which plans to hear from the public during a budget public hearing on May 21 during its 7 p.m. meeting in City Hall.
Foster suggested the council hold its next budget work session after the public hearing. The work session will be at 9 a.m. on May 22 in the second-floor conference room in the City Hall annex.
The city's fiscal 2018-19 budget of $61.4 million reflects an increase of $2.1 million from the current budget of $59.3 million.
The budget holds the line on property taxes, which are set to remain at 65 cents per $100 in property valuation. No fee increases are proposed for water, sewer or garbage service.
The budget includes $819,234 for new equipment, including two dump trucks for the city, and an air compressor for the fire department. Four new positions -- a senior planner, a stormwater maintenance technician, a biosolid operator and a creative services manager -- are also recommended.
Eighty percent of the $63,452 salary for the senior planner would be reimbursed by the N.C. Department of Transportation and the $24,453 half-year salary for the creative services manager would be paid for through hotel occupancy taxes, said Kaye Scott, Goldsboro finance director.
City employees are set to receive a 1 percent cost-of-living increase and a 1 percent increase, to 4 percent, in the city's 401(k) contribution. Police currently receive a 5 percent city contribution to 401(k) accounts, which will remain the same. Employees will also be eligible to receive a 1 percent merit-pay increase.
The council is set to adopt the fiscal 2018-19 budget during its June 4 meeting.