Three no-shows keep city council stalled

Jun. 25, 2013 @ 10:13 PM

Vernon Brown, Brenda Peace-Jenkins and James Kearney failed to show for the Henderson City Council’s special called meeting Tuesday, and a 2013-2014 fiscal year budget remained stalled.

State law requires a budget be in place in less than a week, by July 1.

After a meeting of about 90 minutes with the five members present, the council recessed the meeting until Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m.

Since seeing the budget on May 20, the council has completed five work sessions, a required public hearing and agreed June 11 to put a consensus budget up for a vote on June 24.

At that time, the council was not in agreement on cuts to major programs and Mayor Pete O’Geary said, “I believe we are a standstill.” The budget, most notably, reflected a 3.5-cent rise in property taxes per $100 valuation and a $2 increase to household sanitation fees.

No more work sessions or public hearings were scheduled, just the vote for Monday.

That’s when Sara Coffey said she wasn’t ready to vote and didn’t think other council members were ready to take action. When none of the council members called the question, no vote was taken, only Tuesday’s meeting scheduled.

The Dispatch attempted to reach Brown, Peace-Jenkins and Kearney by phone to find out whey they failed to show. At press time, none had returned phone messages.

Councilman George Daye asked that any major budget alterations wait for a meeting of all council members.

“I think we need all eight here to make any major changes,” said George Daye, adding the other option would be to approve the consensus budget from the prior budget work sessions.

“At this point, I am saddened that we do not have our other council members here,” Councilman Michael Inscoe said.

The members present Tuesday night agreed to try to eliminate the entire 3.5-cent property tax increase. Kearney had said Monday he was not in favor of such an action.

The council proposed a 1.5-percent spending reduction across all departments and tacking on another $1.25 to the sanitation fee, resulting in an increase of more than 12 percent to a $30.25 monthly charge per household. The current rate is $27.

Council members said the goal is finding more than $300,000 that the property tax increase would have raised.

City Manager Ray Griffin said of the $15.3 million general fund budget, $1.8 million can’t be touched because it is either debt service or joint programs with Vance County.

“I will be glad to run those numbers for you so you can see how they would work,” Griffin said, adding, “we are running out of time.”

Griffin said about 75 percent of households pay the sanitation fee for the city’s contracted service with Waste Industries Inc.

Multi-family apartments are served by other trash collection services, as are most commercial businesses and industrial companies.

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.