Council proceeding methodically with budget
Through its first two reviews of City Manager Strib Boynton’s proposed 2013-14 budget, the City Council has made no decisions on any major issues that could impact residents’ wallets.
The council, minus absent members Foster Douglas and Jeff Golden, spent about five hours over two sessions on Wednesday and Thursday poring over Boynton’s recommendations for how to allocate funds for several city departments. Council members asked numerous questions about line-item budget detail, from how much is set aside for employees’ uniforms ($547,598) to the proposed pay increase for High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau staff (3 percent, which CVB representatives described as a cost-of-living adjustment).
Some of the discussion included a proposed $5 per month garbage collection fee for 37,000 residential and small-business customers.
High Point currently does not charge a garbage fee, and Boynton said the $2.7 million it’s projected to generate is needed to help close an expected budget gap.
“The whole budget is balanced based on the garbage fee,” said Boynton. “When you look at the general fund, that is the big decision right there.”
Council members looked at how High Point compares to other cities when it comes to charges for garbage and other types of solid waste. Some cities, such as Archdale ($11) and Lexington ($7.50) assess monthly garbage fees, while others, including Greensboro and Winston-Salem, do not.
They also discussed several possible changes to solid waste collection, including whether the city should handle trash pickup from dumpsters at
apartment and townhome communities, High Point Housing Authority sites and city facilities, or continue to pay a private company for these pickups.
The city’s current contract for the service is $501,000, which includes 28,500 collections per year. The company wants to increase the contract amount to $511,000 beginning July 1.
Officials said that, if the city were to take over the service, they would need to replace a front-end loader truck. It would cost the city an estimated $363,150 to provide the service, which would amount to a net savings of $137,850 when comparing it to the cost of hiring an outside firm.
Other changes in solid-waste services the council is considering:
• Giving customers who stack large piles of loose tree limbs and other refuse at the curb for city collection only one warning instead of two before hauling the materials off and billing the customer $150 per load.
• Allowing residents to call the city’s customer service line to have the city collect multiple bulky items of household and/or yard waste for $150 per load. Officials estimate this could generate $78,000 in annual revenue.
• Making free household hazardous waste disposal day an annual event, instead of every other year.
• Having city crews pick up litter around High Point twice a month at an estimated annual cost of $36,200. Previously, jail and prison inmate labor crews provided this service, but state lawmakers ended the program a few years ago.
• Extra loose bag collection for residents who generate an occasional extra bag of garbage. They would be able to buy stickers from the city for $2.50 each and affix them to the extra bags, something that could generate $12,500 a year for the city.
• Providing business recycling collection, something many businesses have asked about. It would cost the city an estimated $24,000 per year and bring in $52,000 in annual revenue with a $20 per week collection charge.
Council will hold its third budget review on Tuesday.
At $343.7 million, High Point’s proposed 2013-14 budget is $15.8 million, of 4.82 percent, bigger than the adopted 2012-13 budget of $327.9 million. It maintains the property tax rate at 67.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The owner of a $100,000 house would pay $675 a year in city property taxes. It would add a $5 per month garbage collection fee and the annual fee all High Point vehicle owners pay the city would increase from $5 to $10. Retail electric rates would increase 4.9 percent and water and sewer rates would rise 4 to 6 percent at some point later in the fiscal year that begins July 1.