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Not many people went to both the Berger campaign event at the downtown Marriott on Tuesday night and the Walker campaign celebration at Life Community Church on Wendover Avenue.

 

To say it was like night and day would not adequately describe the difference in the two events.

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Report Says City Taxes Too High,

Council Disagrees

June 26, 2014

Greensboro’s spending and taxes are out of control compared to other large cities in North Carolina, according to Don Jud, a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro,

 

Jud recently took the city to task for its spending and taxation in a column in the Triad Business Journal, and later sent the Rhino Times data to back up his argument.

 

Greensboro’s property tax rate, set by the Greensboro City Council on June 17 as part of the city’s $473 million 2014-2015 budget, is 63.25 cents per $100 in valuation, the highest of the five largest cities in North Carolina.

 

The next highest property tax rate is that of Durham at 56.8 cents, followed by Raleigh at 49.1 cents, Winston-Salem at 49.1 cents, Charlotte at 43.7 cents, and Raleigh at 38.3 cents.

 

The average property tax rate of the five cities was 50 cents – 13 cents below Greensboro’s.

 

Once you add county tax rates, the combined rate for Greensboro residents is $1.41, ahead of those paid by Durham residents at $1.31, Charlotte residents at $1.23, Winston-Salem residents at $1.16, and Raleigh residents at 92 cents.

 

The usual argument made by Greensboro city staff are that Greensboro doesn’t charge service fees levied by other cities, instead folding the cost of those services, such as garbage collection, into the property tax rate.

 

Jud said that, even once you consider the service fees of the five cities, Greensboro still taxes its residents at a higher rate than the other four cities.

 

Jud added the property tax rates and other fees of each city and calculated that Greensboro charges its residents the equivalent of property tax rate of 92 cents, well ahead of the next highest city, Durham, at 88 cents; Winston-Salem at 80 cents; Charlotte at 77 cents; and Raleigh at 54 cents.

 

The average property tax rate equivalent of the five cities was 78 cents – 14 cents lower than Greensboro’s.

 

Councilmember Tony Wilkins tried to make Jud’s tax analysis a part of the City Council’s budget discussion.  Wilkins made copies of it for each councilmember, but said he didn’t get much of a response.

 

Councilmember Yvonne Johnson said that Greensboro has expenses that other cities don’t.

 

“One of the things that you have to look at is whether Durham and these other cities have libraries and parks and recreation,” Johnson said.  “Mostly it’s the counties that have that, not the cities.  That makes a difference.”

 

Jud’s analysis was negative about the City of Greensboro’s spending, as well.

 

According to Jud’s figures, Greensboro as of 2011 spent 2.4 percent of its property tax base on government, ahead of Charlotte and Winston-Salem, both at 2.1 percent, Durham at 2 percent, and Raleigh at 1.7 percent.

 

Jud calculated that Greensboro’s city government spending grew by 12.9 percent from 2009 to 2013.  He calculated that two other cities increased their spending during that period: Winston-Salem by 1.7 percent, and Raleigh by 1.1 percent – and that the other two cities actually reduced their spending, Charlotte had a 5.1 percent reduction and Durham had a 3.7 percent reduction.

 

One factor in Greensboro’s high spending was the amount it spent on personnel.  According to Jud, in 2013 Greensboro spent 31.6 percent of its budget on wages and salaries, a higher percentage than the other four cities.  He calculated that 27 percent of Durham’s spending was on personnel, followed by Raleigh at 24.3 percent, Winston-Salem at 23.6 percent and Charlotte at 17.7 percent.

 

Driving that difference was an increase in personnel spending of 11.4 percent by Greensboro from 2009-2013, making it the only city that increased personnel spending during that period, except for fast-growing Raleigh, which increased its personnel spending by 7 percent.

 

The other cities decreased their spending on personnel – Charlotte by 25 percent, Winston-Salem by 13 percent and Durham by 9 percent.

 

Jud was also bearish on the Greensboro economy.  He calculated that Greensboro’s employment growth was well below that of the other cities, as little as a quarter of Raleigh’s.

 

Councilmembers dispute Jud’s findings.  Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said she questioned them.  Councilmember Mike Barber called the statistical data “poor” and said they undermined Jud’s conclusions.

 

Barber said the data Jud used included High Point, which has its own economic problems, and bedroom communities such as Summerfield and Stokesdale that don’t have industry.

 

“I believe that – this sounds harsh – I would categorize them as lazy conclusions,” Barber said.  “The statistics he uses are for the greater Greensboro area or Guilford County.  He doesn’t use the resources available to him such as students and researchers to give us as true picture of our city.”

 

Barber has proposed reducing city employees by up to 13 percent – from 3,000 to 2,600.  He has asked city staff to supply the City Council regular financial, demographic and employment information.

 

“I think the metrics that I’ve requested to be provided to us on a monthly basis in August, that reflect population over a period of time, and other information, such as households, and the growth in the number of city employees and expense will bear out that we can have a more lean government.”

 

 

 

 

 

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