Between now and the middle of June, the Greensboro City Council is going to spend hours in meetings working on the 2023-2024 budget.

As long as City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba is in office, the members of the City Council could make better use of their time by heading to the beach, playing golf or even going on a cruise.

The main purpose of all those meetings is not, as most councilmembers believe, determining how the city revenue will be spent – the spending in the city budget is amended at nearly every City Council meeting.  The primary purpose is to set the property tax rate that remains the same throughout the fiscal year.

Jaiyeoba was hired in February 2022, and the 2022-2023 budget was not just his first City of Greensboro budget, but his first budget as a city manager.

Since he was new to the city and new to setting municipal budgets, one might have expected Jaiyeoba to closely follow the directions of the City Council and produce a budget that was in keeping with what the City Council had requested.

The City Council had requested a revenue-neutral budget with the caveat that the tax rate may have to be increased by a penny or two.

Ignoring the request for a revenue neutral budget, the centerpiece of Jaiyeoba’s budget was a tax rate equivalent to an 11.69 cent tax increase.  Because of revaluation, a revenue-neutral budget would have lowered the tax rate by 11.69 cents, but Jaiyeoba’s budget didn’t lower the tax rate at all.

The City Council balked at the 30 percent increase in property taxes and then Jaiyeoba performed some sleight of hand, which should have gotten the attention of the City Council but didn’t.

Jaiyeoba brought back a revised budget that lowered the tax increase to 8.69 cents and at the same time increased spending.  One would think that lowering the tax rate would require lowering the expenditures to balance the budget, but it didn’t.

The budget for the City of Greensboro is what is called conservative, which means underestimating revenue and overestimating expenses.  In theory this makes sense, but the way it is practiced in Greensboro, the city manager could lower the tax rate, increase spending and still balance the budget.

It is worth noting that both Mayor Nancy Vaughan and then District 3 City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Justin Outling voted against the budget because of the unprecedented tax increase. But it is also worth noting that they voted against the budget pretty quietly and didn’t convince a single councilmember who was not running for mayor to join them in opposition.

So last year on the most important part of the budget, the property tax rate, Jaiyeoba completely ignored the directions of the City Council and the City Council passed his budget by a 7-2 vote.

What the City Council should do this year during the budget season is take some time off, go to the beach, do some volunteer work, sleep late, take up pickleball (America’s fasting growing sport) or whatever they do to relax, come back for their meeting in the middle of June and pass the budget Jaiyeoba presents.

Jaiyeoba has indicated that he plans on recommending a tax increase again this year, and the mayor and City Council have a history of giving Jaiyeoba what he wants including a large salary increase.  Last year Jaiyeoba asked for 11.69 cents and got 8.69 cents.  Maybe this year he’ll ask for 15 cents and get 10 cents.  Or who knows, he could ask for 30 cents and settle for 25 cents.

But judging from last year’s budget, it’s a safe bet that the input from the City Council will be ignored.