The Greensboro City Council passed the $566 million 2019-2020 budget with a 3 cent tax increase, a 4 percent water rate increase and a new $2.50 monthly recycling fee and there is no doubt about it because the Council passed the budget twice at its meeting Tuesday, June 18 in the Council Chamber.
Just before taking a break the City Council passed a motion to approve “Item 41” which was the budget made by Councilmember Sharon Hightower who added an amendment that the premium SCAT paratransit service on nights and weekends eliminated in the budget be kept in place for a month.
After the break, Mayor Nancy Vaughan started out by reading “Item 42.” A motion was made, seconded and Vaughan called for the vote.
Councilmember Justin Outling asked if he could speak and started an explanation about why he was not supporting the budget. He commended City Manager David Parrish on crafting a budget that would pass, and added, “I regret I cannot support the budget as proposed. It includes a material tax increase, and fee increases without first even attempting to trim all the fat in city operations.” He also noted that with the budget the City Council was increasing its own compensation and he couldn’t vote for that.
Vaughan said, “We voted on 41 already.”
Outling said that the vote was to delay the reduction of the premium SCAT paratransit service, not the budget
Parrish said he understood the motion was on SCAT services, but several councilmembers disagreed.
Vaughan said, “Well, we have to pass the budget.”
Hightower said she asked during the break if they had voted on the budget and she didn’t understand her motion to not reduce SCAT services was interpreted as a motion on the budget.
Outling agreed with Hightower and said he seconded a motion on SCAT service continuance, not on the budget. It was hard to get a head count but it appeared the majority of the council thought they had passed the budget with absolutely no discussion about anything except premium SCAT paratransit service.
Councilmember Tammi Thurm made a motion to reconsider “41” and that passed which means that the City Council did pass the budget because when the motion to reconsider passed, it placed the budget back on the floor for a second vote. According to Robert’s Rules of Order a motion to reconsider brings back to the floor a motion that has already been voted on and can only be made by someone who voted on the prevailing side. Since the original motion passed 9-0 any member of the City Council could have made a motion to reconsider.
Before the second vote on the budget, Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said that a vote against the budget was a vote against giving raises to public safety officers. Which is a bizarre statement since a vote against the budget is a vote against not just the raises but funding not only the police and fire departments, but every department in the city and every expenditure made by the city during the fiscal year.
The second time, the budget passed on an 8-1 vote with Outling casting the lone vote against the $566 million budget. During the budget meetings and work sessions the City Council never discussed or considered ways to reduce the proposed 3 cent tax increase. It never discussed the $2.50 cent a month recycling fee. However the Council did discuss the 4 percent water rate increase.
The City Council also discussed in detail a proposed bus fare increase and asked Parrish to come back with a budget that had no fare increase. Parrish did so but in the no fare increase budget, weekend and night premium SCAT service was eliminated.
Tuesday night one premium SCAT rider complained that it would inconvenience him not to have weekend and night service, so the City Council passed a motion to delay implementing those SCAT premium service reductions for 30 days.