Tonight the City Council of the City of Kinston voted 2-2 and I broke the tie in favor of the recommended budget as presented by the Kinston City Manager. Here is the statement I gave at the end of the meeting.
Public debate, openness and transparency are essential in our democracy. The State of NC requires that our City Manager present a balanced budget to this body. This Council has the authority to accept, reject or amend his recommendations.
Each and every one of us lives here, works here and plays here. Everyone on this bench and in our presence tonight are financially impacted by these decisions.
We have seen increases because of our wholesale suppliers. We have seen increases because of the Affordable Care Act. We have seen increases because of the needs of our aging infrastructure.
Our electric partners have made it clear that increases are coming and should’ve already come based on wholesale and infrastructure pressures. However, a potential deal with Duke Energy caused there to be a pause in hopes of a record deal for our communities.
Last year we pulled from our General Fund to loan and support the electric fund. We decided then to pay that back this fiscal year. I think we all can agree that this practice is not a long-term solution. Just as continuing the practice of transferring from the electric fund to subsidize our General Fund will one day be obsolete.
Also, this fall we will be making serious, long-term financial decisions regarding our infrastructure to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Ultimately we may need to ask voters for their opinions on how best to finance the replacement of 100-year-old pipes and 30-year-old electrical equipment.
In light of the potential Duke deal and our future discussion of infrastructure, I would encourage some compromise tonight. We can either stomach a small increase in electric or we can take street resurfacing to $0, stop demolishing dilapidated buildings and more.
Unfortunately, we have three options and neither one will make sleeping tonight easier. We can raise a utility rate with the hope of a future decrease, we can raise property tax rates by 5.71 cents, which will never decrease, or we can drastically and negatively affect the momentum we’re gaining in service quality, street resurfacing, planning and quality of life.
I want to thank our City Manager and staff for doing more than this body requested of you. Without your diligent efforts in frugality our choices tonight would be much more difficult.
In closing, we all should concede that this budget only affects the next 12 months and the fall infrastructure discussions, potential vote of the people, and Duke Energy deal will have a greater impact on our community for decades.
This decision is not taken lightly and this body has had ample time to review it, ask questions, seek input, hold a public hearing and now even receive more public comments. I want to thank all of our citizens who came tonight to speak their opinions on the budget. We truly value your opinion and the time you gave to be here.