Judging from the final meetings of 2018, it looks like 2019 is shaping up to be a tax increase year. Whether it is a sales tax increase or a property tax increase, it seems that some kind of tax increase is in the air.
At the Dec. 4 City Council meeting Mayor Nancy Vaughan promised that the city would start a program to make mental health professionals available to Greensboro Police officers whenever those officers are dealing with someone with mental health problems. The exact form this initiative would take reportedly has not been worked out, but having mental health professionals on call 24 hours a day for police officers is not going to happen without considerable expense.
At the December 18 meeting Greensboro Director of Transportation Director Adam Fischer suggested the City Council consider a sales tax increase to fund improvements to the Greensboro Public Transit System. If the City Council decides to make improvements to the system, the money will have to come from somewhere because the Public Transit System is running at a deficit. Currently 3.5 cents on the Greensboro tax rate of 63.25 cents is used to fund the public transit system.
Also in December the City Council approved the new Cultural Arts Master Plan which includes a recommendation that a new Cultural Arts department be established and that increasing funding for the arts either be paid for with an increase in sales tax or a food and beverage tax.
The City Council has been under pressure since last spring to greatly increase the funding for the Minority and Women Business Enterprise program. So far, the City Council has not agreed to do so, but the council hasn’t said no either.
It is rare for the City Council to meet without the subject of increased funding for something being discussed and even for the City Council money doesn’t grow on trees.
City Councilmember Justin Outling said he had not heard members of the City Council talking about increasing taxes, but if a tax increase was being considered that the annual City Council retreat would be a great time to discuss it. Outling said he would welcome a substantive discussion on raising taxes and exactly what the citizens could expect in return for that tax increase.
It would be a great change of pace for the City Council to discuss an issue like raising taxes at the annual retreat tentatively scheduled for the last day of January. Council retreats in the past few years have devolved into touchy feely sessions with facilitators and colored dots.