Public against cutting downtown manager

Jun. 09, 2014 @ 09:57 PM

After three Henderson residents and the chairman of the downtown development board spoke in opposition to the city's proposed budget, council members recessed the budget meeting until Wednesday at 6 p.m.

The council has until July 1 to adopt the 2014-'15 fiscal year budget that is roughly $37 million.

All four who signed up to speak at the public budget hearing requested the council find money to salvage the downtown manager's position, which would be defunded in the proposed budget.

Beginning in fiscal year 2012, the general fund budget included $63,200 to cover the cost of one full-time position and basic expenses for the Henderson-Vance Downtown Development Commission.

City Manager Ray Griffin said $10,000 would remain in the budget to fund the Downtown Development Commission.

He said the council could restore the $53,200 funding for the position by increasing revenue.

There are several options to find that extra money.

The council could adopt a sanitation fee or increase the property tax rate, which are not set to go up in this budget. But there already is a 5 percent increase in the water rate and 3 percent increase in the sewer rate.

Council members could also adopt some combination of an increased property tax and sanitation fee.

The last option would be to increase the amount taken from undesignated general fund balance from $0 to $53,200.

Downtown board chairman Phil Hart, who spoke on behalf of several board members, asked the council to rethink losing the position.

"In eliminating the Main Street manager, I hope you have considered the consequences,” he said in a prepared statement. “The tremendous momentum in downtown in the relationships being generated will be lost. The staff member that organizes and runs DDC events like trick or treating and Christmas parade will be lost. The staff member at City Hall the public comes to every day will be lost. The staff member that helps all the downtown businesses and events in organization and promotion will be lost. The staff member who carries out the policy and direction of the DDC will be lost."

Hart lives in Louisburg and owns a business in downtown Henderson.

Stuart Litvin, director of the Henderson-Vance Economic Development Commission, said he was speaking both as a resident and a taxpayer.

“As I mentioned last year when we were discussing this issue, that this is really an investment the city makes,” he said. “It’s not really a cost or expense as much as it is an investment.”

The council agreed to table discussions until 6 p.m. Wednesday when they will re-examine the budget for the next fiscal year that begins next month.

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