Greensboro to implement salary freeze in response to budget shortfall

by Jordan Green

Greensboro to implement salary freeze in response to budget shortfall

City Manager Mitchell Johnson told the Greensboro City Council on Nov. 18 that the city will likely experience a $4.5 million reduction in revenue as a result of the economic downturn, mostly from declining sales tax monies, but also from other sources. As an example, the city expects to receive $250,000 less in its cut from the state’s spirituous liquor monopoly because consumers are buying cheaper brands. The city plans to address the budget shortfall primarily through a “rolling” hiring freeze in July that turned into a full freeze in late October for a savings of $3 million. An additional $1 million should be realized through a salary freeze beginning in January. Johnson also said the city would put off a roofing project, and coliseum and library staff continue to operate at below capacity. He said he approved a library position on Nov. 18 because not making a new hire would mean one of the branches would not be able to operate, and approved a project manager hire because a major construction project would have otherwise been put on hold. District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small warned that keeping staffing vacancies open would come back to haunt the city. “We are putting the staff under tremendous stress to do double duty and triple duty,” she said. “It’s going to start costing us in a back way because people are going to start taking sick days and mental health days or they’re just not going to be able to function as well.”

The $4.5 million shortfall does not take into account the possibility that the state might cut funding to local governments to address its own budget woes, as it did during the 2001 recession. In that case, Johnson reported that the city would have to consider significant service reductions and deplete reserve funds to maintain basic services such as police, fire and solid waste. “There’s no question that the state is going to cut our revenues,” District 4 Councilman Mike Barber said. “We don’t need to speculate or hope that they’re going to be nice. We’re gonna get hammered.”

— Jordan Green