by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

City Manager Rashad Young confers with District 4 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw before a community budget meeting in Lindley Park. (photo by Jordan Green)

Items from across the Triad and beyond

Greensboro leadership braces residents for cuts Greensboro City Manager Rashad Young’s message to upwards of 50 people gathered at a District 4 community budget meeting at Lindley Recreation Center on Monday was clear: “Everything is on the table.”

The city is facing a $9 million shortfall in the 2011-2012 budget. Anticipating deep cuts at the state level that have the potential to trickle down to the local level, council directed staff during a January retreat to cut even deeper — a spending reduction of $18 million — Young said. The council has also directed staff to produce a budget without a tax increase.

The city is required by state law to produce a balanced budget. Revenues are projected to drop from $254.9 million this fiscal year to $250.0 million in the next, Young said, while current-level expenditures are on track to increase to $259.0 million. The city is already $2 million in the hole this year because of disappointing property tax revenues.

“What is currently driving this decline in revenue is the lack of growth in property taxes,” Young said. Last year, the city projected 1 percent growth in the property tax base, but the currentyear growth fell significantly short of expectations, so the city has revised its projection to 0 percent growth for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Additional demands on the spending side come from increases in fuel costs and increases in mandated state contribution to the retirement system, along with additional costs to operate Keeley Park, which is scheduled to open in northeast Greensboro in the next fiscal year, Young said.

The city manager’s declaration that all options for reducing the size of the budget are under consideration came with only one caveat.

“I will not accept or forward reductions in sworn police and fire fighter positions,” he said, adding that he could think of no other limitations. — JG

Winston-Salem projects $2.2 million budget shortfall Winston-Salem faces a $2.2 million shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, said Ann Jones, director of Winston-Salem’s Budget Office, during a meeting of the city’s finance committee meeting on Monday. However, if the state budget crisis worsens, the city could be staring down the barrel at a $22.5 million loss. City Manager Lee Garrity said Gov. Beverly Perdue’s base budget proposal for 2011-12 doesn’t adversely impact municipalities but acknowledged that the state has multi-billion dollar budget deficit to address. Jones attributed the $2.2 shortfall to a number of factors, including the loss of the city’s local cable franchise revenue, a reduction in business license revenue, and an increase in city employee pay and benefits. The budget office recommended the city appropriate $2.2 million from its fund balance to make up the shortfall.

Jerry Silber, chair of the Citizens Budget Advisory Council, presented the group’s findings to committee members during Monday’s meeting.

Last week, the citizens committee approved its report that included the input received from nearly 80 residents who attended four public input sessions in January. Due to the small number of participating citizens, the group summarized its findings rather than make formal recommendations to city officials. The report revealed that residents who participated ranked public safety as the No. 1 area that should not be reduced in budget deliberations. Citizens identified expenditures on recreation and culture as one area that should be reduced and recommended the city look for ways to reduce waste and achieve greater efficiency in all areas. — KTB