Historic tax increase not a big deal for city council

The budget approved by Greensboro City Council last week was historic, but the budget process was not.

Usually, the city manager presents his recommended budget to the city council in May. The city council holds several budget work sessions where council members mostly discuss funding for their favorite nonprofits and ignore most of the budget.

That’s essentially what happened this year despite the fact that the budget recommended by City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba, who was hired in February, included the largest property tax increase in Greensboro history.

The consensus within the city council was that the property tax increase of nearly 12 cents was too high. After all, it is an election year. So, using accounting sleight of hand and cutting nearly a million dollars from the Greensboro Police Department’s budget, Jaiyeoba reduced the proposed tax increase to about 9 cents without cutting expenses other than those of the GPD.

The city council, true to form, added $225,000 in funding to three nonprofits and seven city council members, which was enough to win their votes. Mayor Nancy Vaughan and District 3 council member and mayoral candidate Justin Outling voted against approving the $689 million budget. But neither made any motions to adjust the budget or reduce the proposed property tax hike.

Vaughan has repeatedly said she would like to see what a budget would look like without tax increases, but has never made a motion to introduce one.

City council did not question the city’s need to add more than 60 new employees or spend an additional $70 million over the 2021-22 budget.

The city council also did not ask for a public explanation as to why the director did not follow the recommendation of the city council and presented a budget with a tax increase in the range of 3 to 4 cents, as had been discussed at the city council retreat in March.

In short, City Council has treated the 2022-23 budget with a property tax increase of approximately 30% the same way it has treated budgets without a tax increase in the past.

While the 2022-2023 budget will be amended throughout the year, the tax rate is set by the budget vote and will not change.