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High Point may increase cell phone budget, taxes

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- High Point City leaders may increase taxes.  They're going over the budget, want to give city employees pay raises and help pay their cell phone bills.

Councilmember Latimer Alexander who also serves as the chairman of the city's finance committee said when there is an emergency or a special event, the city wants to make sure its key employees help with the situation.  For that reason Alexander wants to increase the city's cell phone budget from $16,900 to $ 91,523.

High Point pays workers stipends to supplement their personal cell phone bills.  The budget increase would allow more high level police, fire and other city department management level workers to get the stipends.

"We could have any type of event.  Every day we have electrical outages, we have water pipes that break, we have other things that require immediate attention," Alexander said.

If High Point's new cell phone rules pass, the city would spend more than $1,100 per person each year.

Greensboro spends an average of about $400 dollars per worker, while Winston-Salem spends about $375 dollars per person.

The larger cell phone budget added to a proposal to give city worker's raises would likely force a tax increase, which taxpayers aren't thrilled about.

"If the business wants to pay for it, let the business pay for it, but don't take it out on our taxes," said High Point taxpayer, Nyree Washington.

"In these economic times… it's not the best use of our funds," said High Point taxpayer, Henry Newton.

Alexander says the cell phone deal is important.  It would require city workers getting stipends to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making them easier to find in crisis situations like the 2010 tornado or the plane crash that damaged a High Point neighborhood.

Councilmembers will vote on the budget at their June 18 meeting.