District 3 City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Justin Outling says he is opposed to any of the three tax rate increase options that will be presented to the City Council at the Tuesday, May 3 meeting.
The issue is the unallocated fund balance, also called the emergency fund. The NC Local Government Commission (LGC) recently revised the method used for calculating the required minimum amount in this fund and, according to the new calculation, Greensboro’s emergency fund is $9 million below the minimum requirement.
In March, the LGC gave Greensboro 60 days to present a plan to bring the emergency fund up to the required minimum. The deadline is May 8, and the May 3 meeting is the last scheduled City Council meeting prior to the deadline. The City Council has discussed options to bring the emergency fund up to the required minimum at several work sessions but has reached no decision.
According to the City Council agenda released to the public, city staff will present one option increasing the property tax rate by 0.25 cents, which would produce the revenue to meet the minimum requirement over a 10-year period.
However, Outling states in an email that the City Council will be presented with three options and he is opposed to all three because all three require the City Council to raise the tax rate.
Outling noted that the language used by city staff was odd but that he had asked Assistant City Manager Larry Davis specifically if all the options involved raising the tax rate.
Outling said, “This will be a tax increase.”
Outlng added, “The city is in good financial condition. It’s inexplicable not to close the gap now while we can, particularly because it doesn’t require any cuts or reduced spending.”
The three options that will be put on the table at the City Council meeting, according to Outling are:
- A 0.75 cent tax rate increase,
- A 0.25 cent tax rate increase,
- An allocation of $4 million from the $59 million in American Rescue Plan funds plus a 0.5 cent tax increase.
Outling states in an email, “As I advocated for previously, I am in favor of facing this problem directly and setting aside $9 million from current revenue sources (which could include ARP funds. I will vote no if any of these three options is presented tomorrow.”
Outling’s email raises another issue not related to funding but to the public’s right to know. According to the agenda released to the public, only one option will be presented – the 0.25 cent tax increase. But according to an email sent to at least some city councilmembers, the three options above will be presented.
It appears that the only way for a regular person to know what is actually on the agenda is to contact a city councilmember and compare notes.