City budget increases due to growth, funds allocated to match Council goals
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Monday, April 16, 2018
Greenville is growing and city budget projections reflect that fact with expectations for higher revenue and plans for additional spending.
Early budget models for the city show a $3.6 million increase in revenue in the coming two years, which will be used to cover the cost of personnel raises, business incentives and infrastructure improvement.
Last week, Assistant City Manager Michael Cowin presented the Greenville City Council a preview of the 2018-19 operating budget and 2019-20 financial plan. Cowin stressed that both the budget and plan are preliminary and subject to change.
“Staff will continue analyzing projected revenues and expenses for the next two year period and will adjust accordingly as needed between now and June,” he said.
The budget shows $2,732,723 in growth for the 2018-19 budget from the previous fiscal year, totaling $84,746,522 in both revenues and expenses. For the following fiscal year, another $894,478 in growth is expected, bringing the total budget to $85,641,000
The majority of the growth in both budgets is related to increases in property tax revenue due to new housing. Neither the budget nor the plan show an increase in the property tax rate, which remains at $0.52 per $100 valuation.
The 2018-19 operating budget relies on $33,722,500 in property taxes, a $972,500 increase from the current fiscal budget. The following year an even larger $1,064,129 increase is expected.
The property tax projections are based on a normal 2.15 percent growth percentage per year, coupled with $87,000,000 in new developments between August 2016 and August 2017. The 2019-20 financial plan is based on the same growth percentage and $54,000,000 in development that will be complete by August 2018.
Sales taxes are also expected to increase from the current fiscal year’s $18,823,000, to $19,338,690 in 2018-19 and $19,925,411 in 2019-20.
The budget uses the increased $3.6 million for a variety of city needs and expansions.
More than half — about 61 percent — of the money will go toward towards personnel expenses, spending $54,344,451 in 2018-19 — a $1,078,763 increase, and $55,404,614 in 2019-20. Operating expenses for the city, currently $17,490,441, are budgeted to increase by $787,512 for the next year and by $506,683 in 2019-20.
Much of the rest of the increased funding is targeted for capital improvements. The city budgeted $4,300,631 for improvement projects in the current fiscal year, and plans to increase that by $635,690 in 2018-19. The following year’s financial plan reduces the increase by $388,419, setting it at $4,547,902.
According to Cowin’s presentation, the general increase in personnel, operating and capital improvement spending will pay for several City Council goals and priorities.
Both budgets include improvements in employee compensation, including a 2.9 percent increase in employee wages in 2018-19, and a 2.5 percent increase in wages for 2019-20. The city also plans to increase 401k contributions from $30 per pay period to $40, bringing contributions in line with Greenville Utility Commission rates. There is also a $20,000 increase for employee training.
Business incentives, which have been a specific focus of the City Council, also are included in the budget. It provides $1 million across the two years for commercial/industrial development, such as shell buildings and industrial park development. Job Creation Grants for incoming or expanding businesses have an $100,000 -per year allocation, and grant funding for small business competitions has been increased from $40,000 to $60,000. The budget also includes the creation of a business concierge position, a full-time employee who will serve as a ‘one-stop’ to assist developers and businesses.
Parking needs in the Dickinson Avenue area for budding retail and commercial growth received a $400,000 allocation.
“Mayor Connelly has been very clear through his words that Greenville means business with concerns to its future economic development efforts,” Cowin said. “This two-year budget is intended to put those words into action.”
In addition to direct business incentives, infrastructure improvements are a priority in the budget, including a increase from $2.2 million to $2.5 million for street improvements, $250,000 each year for street light and camera improvements and $503,000 for sidewalk development through the Safe Routes to Schools program.
The budget puts $350,000 in capital reserve from the city’s projected excess fund balance, to fund the city’s portion of costs related to state road projects. The city will need about $3.5 million in the next five years to cover its portion of the about $400 million the state plans to spend. The budget directs $1.4 million each year to the city’s deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs, such as the facilities improvements program.
About $7.8 million from Phase Two of the 2015 G.O. Bond referendum is included, which will help finance street improvements, sidewalks, West Fifth Street streetscaping and an extension of the greenway from the Town Commons to River Park North.
The budget also is focused on improving quality of life for Greenville residents. An additional $50,000 is allocated for maintaining city parks and greenways, and $100,000 is included to match a $400,000 state grant funding for the completion of Phase Three of the Tar River Greenway, which will connect the Town Common to land just east of Memorial Drive. Another $100,000 will help maintain the primary entrances into the city and fund the Adopt-A-Street program.
Funding is allocated each year for partnerships with various local groups, including $100,000 to Uptown Greenville, $35,000 to the Pitt County Arts Council and $5,000 to the Pitt/Greenvllle Chamber of Commerce. The budget allocates $10,000 for miscellaneous marketing and advertisement initiatives
Other budget highlights include:
■ Funding for the $33 million Town Creek Culvert project, paid for through the states’ revolving loan program and the city’s stormwater fund. The Town Creek Culvert is responsible for draining stormwater from about 250 acres in downtown and adjacent areas. It begins near Ninth and Ficklen streets and continues to an outlet into the Tar River between Reade Circle and South Summit Street. The project that will cause road closures throughout the next two and a half years.
■ About $2 million in capital reserve funding for the Sycamore Hill Gateway project, which will commemorate the historic neighborhood that previously stood on the Town Common.
■ Two transit supervisor positions for the operations at the new G.K. Butterfield Transportation Center. The The nearly $7.2 million center is under construction at South Pitt Street and Bonner’s lane in downtown Greenville, and scheduled to open May. The center will be a hub for both local area and regional transport, including city and university bus routes, taxi services and greyhound busses. Officials say partnerships with train service and airport shuttles may be negotiated as well.
■ Three new fire/rescue personnel to prepare for the opening of the Southside Fire Station sometime in 2020. The station eventually will require 12 positions. There also is funding for a new EMS billing technician position, which will help the city with EMS reimbursement operations.
■ A $10,000 allocation for Pitt County Community College’s jobs initiative program.
Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth