GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Nobody wants a tax hike, but it could be happening for Greensboro property owners.
The proposed budget would raise taxes by 4 cents for every $100 of property value. Council members and the mayor say it’s too much, so they are getting creative to fill the gap.
They are looking at many options, including re-evaluating a pricey pilot program. It’s called The Hopper. It is a free trolley to take people up and down Elm Street starting next month. City council members approved $1 million in ARPA funds to get them rolling for six months.
To keep the program going longer, it would cost the city another $1 million at least.
“I think it is way too expensive. I think it is a vanity project,” Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said.
Inside a business on Knox Road in McLeansville, crews are working to convert eight buses into trolleys. They would run every few minutes on Elm Street, starting at Fisher Avenue and going south past West Gate City Boulevard, running Thursday through Sunday for about 12 hours a day.
“There is money right there that we could greatly scale down that pilot project to make it look like what it originally proposed,” Vaughan said.
Some business owners along Elm Street hope the trollies bring positive change.
“I can’t wait to ride,” said Trinity May who works at the Green Bean. “I find it really fun to walk up and down downtown, but not everybody else gets that privilege I have, so I hope the trolley can bring that to everyone.”
Council members are asking at what cost can they extend the program into the future?
“We may love all of this in the budget right now, but we also know that we want public safety taken care of. We want our other city staff members taken care of,” said Hugh Holston, who holds the at-large seat on the Greensboro City Council.
The budget request for next year is huge. It is $749.5 million. The council thinks they can get the number down.
“I agree with the mayor that there are pockets we can cut,” said Tammi Thurm, the representative for District 5.
“There is more creativity within this budget that we would like to see,” said Zack Matheny who represents District 3.
They hope to re-evaluate some of the city services and how often they hire outside help.
“We contract with a lot of consultants throughout the year. Maybe we need to stop doing that,” Vaughan said.
The mayor and council members asked the city manager to look at some of these areas to create solutions to keep taxes down.
“I think there is a path forward that we can do it progressively but not have to do it at such a rate that other things go lacking,” said Sharon Hightower who represents District 1.
The city has to approve a budget by July 1.
A few weeks later, the trolleys are expected to be cruising along Elm Street. The council has to approve the routes, schedules and the way this program will work, particularly after the first six months which has already been paid for.