Greensboro Looks for Creative Ideas to Improve Budget

Members of Greensboro’s City Council are brainstorming to find any last-minute ways to decrease City expenditures in the budget before presenting a public hearing on the proposal on June 3.

At a work session on Tuesday afternoon Council members looked for creative solutions that wouldn’t force the City to cut services or City employees.

While Councilman Jamal Fox praised the City Manager for increasing the number of vacation days for City employees from 11 to 12, Councilman Zack Matheny thought it was a bad idea.

“I don’t like that. We’ve already got good vacation here,” said Matheny. “The City needs to be open to the people.”

Fox and Matheny did agree on increasing false alarm fees. The Fire Department currently spends $1 million a year responding to alarms that were set off in error. The current fee is $50 for the second false alarm from a location, but increasing that fee to $100 would make up for that sunk cost.

“People are going to be mad at you,” said Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson to Fox.

Councilman Tony Wilkins offered the suggestion that the City could start charging user fees for leaf collection. Most other members of Council were strongly against the idea and felt the revenue gained from the fees might not even make of for the cost of implementing such a collection program.

“What about selling them oversees then,” said Wilkins, “We have some good nutrient-rich leaves here.”

Wilkins also suggested increasing ticket prices at the Coliseum by $1. Mayor Vaughan was receptive to the idea and agreed with Councilwoman Sharon Hightower that a $1 ticket increase would not deter people from purchasing tickets that are $35 or more to begin with.

The subject of parking at the Coliseum led to Council to another creative solution. Wilkins expressed frustration that you must have cash in the form of singles to pay for parking at the Coliseum and suggested the City create a way for people to pay for parking in advance and with their credit cards when they first buy their ticket online. The City of Raleigh already has a similar system for the Raleigh Amphitheatre.

“This is 2014 and you can’t buy concessions or park with a card,” said Wilkins

Mayor Vaughan liked the idea and even took it a step further by suggesting that Greensboro residents receive preferred parking at Coliseum events.

There will be another work session to review and tweak the recommended budget before its adoption in mid-June.

Water Costs in Greensboro May Trickle Higher

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The 2014-2015 budget for Greensboro’s Water & Sewer Fund was presented to City Council members on Wednesday afternoon.

Water Resources Department Director Steven Drew reviewed the factors that could increase monthly water bills by $1.48 a month for inside customers and $6.70 for outside customers.

The state’s Jordan Lake Regulatory requirements account for part of the rate increase. Other rate drivers include regulatory costs and necessary improvements needed for utilities infrastructure.

No one likes to see a bill increase, and Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson anticipated the need to explain the rate changes to Greensboro residents.   “People need to know that we didn’t just make this up, ” Johnson said. “Are we going to put something in the water bill to help our residents understand that this was a state mandate?”

Even with the forecasted increases, Greensboro would still have the third lowest water costs in the state.

Drew said that Greensboro is fortunate to be able to gradually increase rates over time as it begins improving infrastructure and that other cities that have delayed necessary updates are experiencing dramatic spikes in utilities costs.

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