It only took the City Council about 30 minutes to resolve its one issue with the proposed $566 million 2019-2020 budget at a work session on Tuesday, June 4 in the Plaza Level Conference Room.
The issue was not the 3 cent tax increase, the $2.50 recycling fee or the $500,000 new mental health department. The one issue that concerned City Council was that the budget recommended by City Manager David Parrish had raised Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA) fixed route bus fares and SCAT paratransit service fares. The proposed hike was from $1.50 to $1.75 for fixed route buses and from $1.50 to $2.00 for SCAT. The increased fares and some additional changes were estimated to have about a $1 million positive impact on the budget.
However, after Councilmembers Sharon Hightower and Michelle Kennedy complained about raising fares at the previous budget work session, the council asked to see a budget without the fare increases.
Budget and Evaluation Director Larry Davis presented a new budget without the fare increases, meaning Davis had to find about a million dollars somewhere to balance the budget. The premium SCAT service was eliminated after 8 p.m. and on weekends, but not the regular SCAT service as was reported in the News & Record.
It doesn’t appear anything was actually cut. Some money was moved around. A few hundred thousand taken out of one account. A little more savings or fund balance would likely be spent. Some sales tax revenue would go to the GTA rather than somewhere else and the $250,000 put in the budget for Cure Violence a program, that almost no one thinks will be funded, will go GTA.
The million dollar shortfall was covered with no discernible impact on any city program, service or employee.
When the budget includes $11.1 million in brand new money that kind of sleight of hand can be accomplished, but it is an indication of just how much spare change is floating around in this budget. It should make people wonder what would have happened if some councilmember had had the chutzpah to request a budget with a 2 cent tax increase or no tax increase at all.