by Jordan Green

Items from across the Triad and beyond

Perkins makes mayoral bid official

Greensboro at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins officially announced his mayoral candidacy on Tuesday, setting up a contest with one-term Mayor Bill Knight, who has said he plans to seek re-election. Former Councilman Tom Phillips has also indicated plans to run for the seat. Last week, North Carolina Latin Kings leader Jorge Cornell announced he will make his second bid for Greensboro City Council at large.. Incumbent Danny Thompson has indicated that he plans to seek re-election, but Perkins’ mayoral bid and Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan’s announced retirement leave two vacancies in the three at-large seats. Other announced at-large candidates include Wayne Abraham, a former chair of the human relations commission; Cyndy Hayworth, who serves as vice-chair on the zoning commission; political newcomer Chris Lawyer; and Tony Wilkins, a member of the war memorial commission and former executive director of the Guilford County Republican Party. Former Mayor Yvonne Johnson and human relations commissioner Marikay Abuzuaiter have also indicated an interest in running for one of the at-large seats. DJ Hardy, treasurer of the Greensboro Jaycees and an unsuccessful at-large candidate two years ago, has announced plans to seek the District 1 seat. Dianne Bellamy- Small, the seat’s current occupant, has not indicated whether she plans to run again. Incumbents Jim Kee, Zack Matheny, Mary Rakestraw and Trudy Wade, who respectively represent districts 2, 3, 4 and 5, have all indicated they plan to seek re-election.

Greensboro and Winston-Salem considering proposed budgets

The Triad cities of Greensboro and Winston-Salem each have recommended budgets that their respective governing boards are expected to approve by the end of the month. Greensboro’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011-2012 is $440.5 million, a 1.7 decrease adjusted for an accounting shift that places additional monies for the coliseum in the general fund. Winston-Salem is considering a $390.8 million budget.

Budget Director Ann Jones said the city of Winston-Salem’s real budget growth is closer to 0.5 percent when you consider that the city has a $16 million balloon payment on equipment leasing due in fiscal year 2011-2012, which hits every two years. The city is also expanding the number of school resources officers but the funding will come entirely from Winston-Salem/ Forsyth County Schools. The expenditure represents a passthrough rather than real growth in city government.

Both cities are holding property tax rates steady. Greensboro is not considering an increase in water and sewer rates this year, although looming capital expenses make rate increases likely in coming years. The Winston-Salem City Council is considering an 8 percent water-rate increase and a 9 percent sewer-rate increase to cover debt service for recent improvements. Both cities want to fund 1.5 percent merit increases for their employees. Winston- Salem employees last received merit raises in 2008, while their Greensboro counterparts have not seen such increases in the past three budget cycles.

The city of Greensboro is balancing its budget through $9.5 million in spending cuts and $3.3 million in revenue enhancements. On the revenue side of the ledger, the city is considering implementing a new privilege license fee on internet sweepstakes and video poker, resulting in $200,000 and one-time fixes such as a $717,000 transfer from the employee insurance fund. The city plans to close the Folk Teen Center on Clifton Road, reduce overtime by the police and fire departments, decrease contracted services with outside fire districts and eliminate free funeral escorts.

Both cities have prioritized public safety. Winston-Salem’s proposed budget recommends hiring three more fire battalion chiefs, while Greensboro City Manager Rashad Young exempted sworn public safety positions from cuts. Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity’s proposed budget recommends the elimination of eight positions affected by the continuing downturn in building activity, including six construction inspectors, a planner and a fire inspector, while six positions would be reduced from the sanitation division through automation.

The city of Greensboro’s proposed budget also includes extensive reductions in funding to nonprofits such as the Greensboro Partnership, the Natural Science Center and the Greensboro Sports Commission. In contrast, the city of Winston-Salem maintains contributions to community agencies at the same level, and allocates $50,000 to match a one-time grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the Creative Corridors Coalition.