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GREENSBORO TRIES TO FIND MORE GREEN IN BUDGET

whitney@yesweekly.com

As the City of Greensboro narrows in on finalizing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Council has been combing through expenditures and turning over stones to look for ways to save the City money.

Two ideas that have been discussed include a $1 Coliseum Seat Tax and changes to the Loose Leaf Collection program. Number crunching and much scrutiny have been employed to assess whether these adjustments would result in real financial outcomes or be more trouble to enact than they are worth.

The Greensboro Coliseum currently costs around $25 million a year to run and maintain. Some $18 million is used for maintenance and operations while $7 million covers the cost of employees.

The Coliseum comes close to breaking even every year earning $13 million in admissions and charges, $1.6 million in concessions and $7.5 million from other unspecified sources of revenue. On average, the Coliseum earns about 90% back in revenue of what it costs Greensboro each year The City has the authority to add a $1 seat tax to every ticket sold at the Coliseum. At a work session on May 27 Councilman Tony Wilkins asked why Greensboro had not taken advantage of this in the past. Mayor Vaughan was receptive to the idea and agreed with Councilwoman Sharon Hightower that a $1 ticket increase would not prevent people from purchasing tickets that are already $35 or more to begin with.

Wilkins said, “Users of the coliseum should pay that cost instead of taxpayers.”

If the Coliseum Seat Tax were to be added to the sale of every ticket, Greensboro would stand to collect about $300,000 in additional revenue.

At the June 12 work session Managing Director of the Coliseum Matt Brown strongly discouraged Council from establishing such a tax. Brown said that such a fee would be a huge deterrent to promoters considering the venue. For promoters, the distaste in the $1 tax is less monetary and more about the principle of the City making money off of the talent brought by the outside agency.

“It would absolutely discourage events from coming here,” said Brown.

It is therefore likely that promoters would insist that 50% of the revenue earned from the Coliseum Seat Tax be shared with them, leaving only $150,000 a year in additional revenue for Greensboro.

PLANS FOR LOOSE LEAF COLLECTION

The City currently spends about $900,000 a year on a Loose Leaf Collection program for residents. Leaves are picked up by the Field Operations Department in December and January in an effort to prevent residential loose leaves from blocking storm drains and decaying in water systems. Residents are asked to rake leaves to the edge of their yards without causing the foliage to spill out onto the curb or street. The leaves are then composted by the City to be used as fertilizer for public landscaped areas.

Leaves are also collected by the City throughout the year when the foliage is set out in clear plastic bags or metal garbage cans on trash day.

In addition to the expense of this service the abuse of leaf collection by some residents has caused frustrations in Greensboro. It is not uncommon to see bags lined up on the street in neighborhoods all over town. Some residents have complained that leaving loose leaves on their yard causes the grass to die, but the obstruction of sidewalks and streets can be both unsightly and dangerous.

Mayor Vaughan said, “Maybe we should start fining people for not following loose leaf rules,” before joking that if such a fine were to be authorized then should would probably need to “start going incognito,” in her own neighborhood.

The loose-leaf discussion promoted Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter to suggest a broader change to solid waste collection. Abuzuaiter said, “Blue is becoming the universal color for recycling,” and suggested introducing blue recycling cans. The green cans would continue to be used for non-recyclable garbage, the new blue cans would be for recyclables, and the brown cans currently used for recycling would become yard waste cans.

The muted green and brown cans are similar in color, causing occasional confusion with some residents.

Winston-Salem and Durham currently use blue cans for their recycling programs, while Charlotte uses emerald green cans.

While Hightower agreed with Abuzuaiter that blue cans would be eye catching and encourage people to recycle, Wilkins and Councilman Zack Matheny argued that three different types of cans would be excessive.

Wilkins said, “It would be conspicuous.”

Matheny said, “With all the trees in my yard I’m going to have ten brown cans lined up, and then because I have kids I’m going to have two blue recycling cans next to that.”

According to the Greensboro Solid Waste Management Commission, each additional blue recycling can would cost the City $50. As of 2010 there were approximately 124,000 households in Greensboro.

While some questioned whether adult residents of Greensboro could manage three different types of solid waste collection cans, Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson was optimistic that children could be fast adopters of such a program.

“During the drought we had those educational spots on Channel 13 that worked,” said Johnson. “Let’s not forget about that. The kids got it.” !

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