May 20—HIGH POINT — City Council members on Thursday explored options to mitigate the coming impact of what are likely to be higher property tax bills, but cuts to existing spending levels to achieve this were not on the table.
During a special meeting, city staff showed the council several new spending items in the proposed budget that, if left out, would equal the $2.6 million needed to make up for cutting the property tax rate 5 cents instead of 3 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is what staff is proposing.
The draft budget is $47.9 million, or 11.5%, larger than the city's current budget, partly because Guilford County's 2022 property revaluation increased tax values in the city an average of about 25%.
While that will mean more general fund revenue for the city, residential property owners would pay an average of about 19% more in city taxes, even with the proposed 3-cent rate reduction.
The potential deferral list staff presented for council's consideration included two new assistant attorney positions and a paralegal for the city attorney's office.
"I think council is in agreement about expanding the legal department. I'm confident that will end up being an actual savings," said Mayor Jay Wagner, pointing out that the city spends a lot of money to hire outside attorneys to help with the workload.
Also on the list were two new battalion fire chief positions and planned fire engine truck replacements, as well as $1.4 million of miscellaneous capital projects.
Council members did not take action on an additional 2-cent tax rate decrease, but did have a lengthy discussion about another potential new expenditure in the budget: $60,000 to $100,000 to update a 2014 study that was the basis for the controversial "road diet" proposal that year for N. Main Street.
Councilman Cyril Jefferson asked the staff whether the proposed budget addresses enhancements to pedestrian crosswalks and other aspects of "walkability" on Main Street.
This is something businesses along the corridor need to help bring in customers, he said.
Updating the 2014 study would be a first step in making potential upgrades.
Narrowing Main Street by adding parking on both sides as a way to slow vehicle traffic and make the area safer for pedestrians was explored in the study.
The council at the time opted not to pursue any of the recommendations, which opponents claimed would overtax surrounding streets and hinder access to businesses along the corridor.
The council will hold another budget session Monday and plans to adopt a budget June 6.