The Greensboro City Council held its in-depth discussion of the budget at its work session on Tuesday, June 12 in the Plaza Level Conference Room. The discussion lasted 16 minutes and most of it was not about the budget but about how to determine the funding for nonprofit organizations in the future.
The City Council then spent 30 minutes discussing, once again, the Minority and Women Enterprise (MWBE) program and how to implement the recommendations from the new disparity study. The City Council discusses the MWBE program more than any other single topic, so spending twice as long discussing the MWBE program as the budget should not be a surprise.
One interesting aspect is that City Councilmember Sharon Hightower demanded that the MWBE budget be increased and more employees added to the MWBE office.
The budget discussion had already ended, and if Hightower wanted more money allocated to the MWBE office, the time to propose that was during the budget discussion. It certainly seemed that if Hightower had suggested that funding be added to the MWBE office, it would not have been opposed.
The meeting began with Budget Director Larry Davis giving a brief presentation on the budget and changes that had been made since his last presentation on the budget on May 22. Davis said they had found $1.3 million in additional expenses that had not been included in the previous presentation but had been taken care of and wouldn’t affect the tax rate or the other items in the budget.
Councilmember Yvonne Johnson asked about firefighters who were making less than $15 an hour, but no change was made to the salary schedule.
In fact, no changes to the budget were requested by any city councilmember.
The discussion turned to the nonprofit funding. City Manager David Parrish said that the Greensboro Community Development Fund might need to be placed in a different category from the other nonprofits since it was performing a service for the city.
Parrish also said that the staff would start the review process for nonprofit funding earlier and try to provide the recommendations in November.
Councilmember Justin Outling said the organizations funded generally do good work in the community, “but there are a lot of organizations that do good work in the community and we only provide funding to a small fraction of them. It doesn’t seem fair.”
Outling also noted that that the funding for nonprofits represented a small fraction of 1 percent of the budget but it takes an inordinate amount of the City Council’s time and he asked if there wasn’t a better way to do it.
This is a question that has been asked by councilmembers for at least the last 20 years, and most years funding nonprofits is what the City Council discusses more than any other part of the budget.
Councilmember Michelle Kennedy said that the city should examine how the nonprofits are spending the money they receive from the city, and “if it is not something that is growing the capacity of that organization we are not doing much in the long run.”
At the request of Hightower at the May 22 meeting, the funding for the Greensboro Community Development Fund was increased from $50,000 to $300,000 and the funding for East Greensboro Now was increased from $0 to $150,000.
The City Council made no changes to the manager’s proposed budget at the June 12 meeting. The budget is scheduled to be passed at the June 19 meeting with virtually no input from City Council either before or after the manager’s budget was presented. So the only changes to the budget made by the City Council are the two funding increases requested by Hightower.
If the voters of Greensboro wanted a hands-off City Council, they have one.
The tax rate will remain the same at 63.25 cents. The water and sewer rate will increase by 3.5 percent. The monthly household hazardous waste disposal fee will increase from 40 cents to 60 cents and, on Jan. 1, 2019, the rates for monthly parking in the city-owned downtown parking decks will increase from $65 to $85.
The total budget for the City of Greensboro is $543 million.
During MWBE discussions, Assistant City Manager Barbara Harris told the City Council that all the recommendations made as part of the recently completed disparity study by Griffin & Strong would be implemented.
Hightower said that the good faith program needed to be strengthened. She said, “There is no teeth in the good faith policy.”
Johnson said, “Cut out good faith. It is so bogus to me.”
The problem with eliminating the good faith effort portion of the program is that it is required by law. The city cannot set quotas for minority and women contractors. It can only set goals. A contractor cannot be required to hire a certain percentage of minority subcontractors but can be required to document that a “good faith effort” was made to hire minority contractors.
City Attorney Tom Carruthers noted that the Croson case, where the courts ruled that setting quotas was illegal, provided “imperfect tools” for handling MWBE issues.
Outling, an attorney with Brooks Pierce, said that there may be some recommendations made in the report that cannot be done for legal reasons.
But there was some good news on the racial diversity front. Jamiah Waterman, acting human resources director, presented a report on the 22 executive positions in the City of Greensboro.
Outling had suggested that when interviewing to fill an executive position that the city set a goal that, of those interviewed, 30 percent be women and minorities.
But it appears that there may be no need for such a program.
According to Waterman, of the 22 executive positions, 45 percent are held by white males, 32 percent by black females, 18 percent by white females and 5 percent by black males.
The population of Greensboro is 23 percent white male, 22 percent black female, 25 percent white female and 19 percent black male.
Waterman noted that historically and nationwide it has been difficult to recruit minorities and women to jobs in public safety and that those jobs make up a large percentage of the workforce of the City of Greensboro, which skews the numbers for total employees.
Waterman said that to successfully recruit minorities and women to public safety careers, the city was going to have to be more creative going forward.
Kennedy asked how the city was doing as far as the LBGTQ community was concerned.
Waterman said he didn’t have that data and that the forms employees filled out only had two choices for gender. He also noted that some people didn’t want to reveal information about their sexual preferences on government forms.
But Waterman said it was something the city was working on.