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Rhino Times - 2017-06-15
Magazines / Newspapers | Government 2017-06-15 00:00:00
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    Vol. V No. 24 Greensboro, North Carolina www.rhinotimes.com Thursday, June 15, 2017 GREENSBORO TO STEAL NANOTEX FROM HIGH POINT City, County Finalize Budgets plus Under The Hammer, Uncle Orson Reviews Everything AND MORE

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    2 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com The Weekly Hammer THE WEEKLY Hammer What is the Point by John Hammer Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. It seems there is general agreement that in the case of police body-worn cameras, the technology has gotten ahead of the law. But there is a good argument to be made that the technology has gotten ahead of good sense. Whatever job you have, imagine of Body-Cam Videos that you have to wear a body-worn camera recording what you do all day for your boss to watch. Might you decide to transfer to a company that paid the same and where you didn’t have to wear a camera? I know I would. In Greensboro, the police don’t turn on the body-worn cameras all the time; actually, they do run all the time but they don’t record except when the record button is hit, and then it starts recording a few seconds before the button was pushed, which is pretty cool technology in itself. The police are supposed to record any interaction with a citizen other than polite greetings or something like giving directions. That’s still a lot of recording. The Greensboro Police Department recorded 32,820 hours of police bodyworn camera videos last year. For the cameras to do any good, someone has to look at all that footage – and not just someone, but someone who knows police policies and protocols. But still, most of us don’t want our boss looking over our shoulder every time we’re doing something where we might make a mistake. And what is the purpose of the body-worn cameras? Is it training? If it is then at a certain point police officers should be done with training and get to take the cameras off. Is it to make certain the police aren’t doing anything wrong? If police officers have to be watched every second they are interacting with the public then we need new police officers. Police body-worn cameras are a great tool, but it doesn’t seem that we have figured out how to use that tool properly. It’s like the early days of computers when some people collected enormous amounts of data but it wasn’t in a form that could be searched, categorized or changed. It was a long list no different than a list on a piece of paper. I think we are collecting this enormous amount of data from bodyworn cameras but don’t know what to do with it. The only use in Greensboro seems to be that Nelson Johnson can find an arrest that he thinks didn’t go by the book, cause the City Council to spend hours of its time hearing about it, discussing it, looking at the videos and finally deciding what to do about it. So far Johnson has brought three body-worn camera video cases to the City Council and, in one of those – Dejuan Yourse – there has been a big payoff. On the other two, the videos have, according to the City Council, shown that the police acted properly. That’s an amazing record for the police when you consider that Johnson is carefully picking cases where he thinks he can embarrass the police and get some money for his friends. The police union and a number of police officers who work out on the streets strongly disagreed with interpretation on the Yourse incident by the City Council, who have no police training. Police officers have said that Yourse was giving all the signs of someone who was about to run, and it made sense that Yourse would run. Once he handed his driver’s license to the officer, he knew that she was going to find that he did have outstanding warrants and he was going downtown in handcuffs. The police officer who hit Yourse didn’t know that, but he did know that something was wrong with this person who claimed to be just sitting on his mother’s front porch. Yourse told one lie after another to the police officers. When he was first asked about the shovel beside him, he said he found it in the yard and brought it up to the porch. It was only when he was told a neighbor had reported that he stuck the shovel under the door of the garage that he admitted having done so. Many of the police officers out on the street thought the actions of the arresting officers were warranted. The police command staff and the City Council disagreed. It is the job of the upper level police officers to make those decisions for the department; it is not the job of the City Council. But since the video was available and people were coming to every meeting clamoring for the City Council to view the video, the City Council did. It wasn’t a good use of the City Council’s time and it isn’t the City Council’s job to make rulings on the individual arrests by police officers. If the video had not been available, the City Council would have been left out of it. But the video was available. It’s a difficult question. But if the City Council determines it is its job to determine whether each city employee has behaved properly in every situation then perhaps all city employees should have body-worn cameras issued. Certainly, the city receives complaints about employees other than police officers. It seems to me that it’s time to back off the police body-worn camera issue until the city can determine exactly why police officers are wearing them and when, if ever, the City Council should view them. Under the current policy the city only views police body-worn camera videos when Nelson Johnson complains, and that doesn’t seem like a viable city policy.

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 3

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    4 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com RHINO SHORTS by John Hammer Sixth District Congressman Mark Walker was at that congressional baseball team practice where a man with a rifle opened fire. Walker said he was shaken but not hurt. The good news so far is that no one other than the shooter was killed. There is no good reason to shoot someone in cold blood, but shooting people because of their political party is proof that the political divisiveness has gone too far. We should all be able to disagree politically but get along socially. Perhaps this will serve as a wake-up call to all of us that there is much more to life than politics. The Rhino Times First Schmoozefest of Summer is Thursday, June 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Kickback Jack’s at 1600 Battleground Ave. Those who sign in and wear a name tag are welcome to enjoy free hors d’oeuvres and beer and wine (while supplies last). It’s budget time, which means the schools are demanding more money and the Republican majority on the Board of Commissioners don’t want to raise taxes so they allocated more for the schools than they received last year, but not as much as the schools requested. Here’s a solution where they both would get some of what they want. The county budget that is slated to pass includes a 13 percent unappropriated fund balance – read savings account. The Local Government Commission recommends a minimum of 8 percent. Let the county staff have some wiggle room and keep 9 percent in the fund balance, but allocate the remaining 4 percent – about $24 million – to the schools for capital needs. I firmly believe there is not enough money on earth to satisfy the schools, but there is no good reason for the commissioners to be stuffing money under the mattress when there are needs in the county. It would be one-time money, so the schools would have to be warned that they wouldn’t get the same amount next year, but it seems like a much better solution to spend the money on education than to tax the people of Guilford County so that the county can have a huge savings account. (continued on page 11) This project to widen the sidewalk beside the Southeastern Building along East Market Street between Elm and Davie streets seems like it has been going on forever to those who have to detour around it every day. The good news is that the city fired the contractor who had the site looking like this after months of work, and it appears a lot of progress has been made in the past week, so the end may be in sight.

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 5 table of CONTENTS 2 WEEKLY HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 6 DEMS ORGANIZE: DISTRICT 8 FROM WORST TO FIRST BY SCOTT D. YOST 7 GREENSBORO USES ODD ECONOMIC INCENTIVE TO STEAL NANO COMPANY FROM HIGH POINT BY JOHN HAMMER 8 COUNTY CITIZENS DON’T GET TAX CUT BUT MANAGER GETS SPIN DOCTOR BY SCOTT D. YOST 10 CITY TAX INCREASE FAILS TO RUFFLE FEATHERS BY JOHN HAMMER 12 SCAMS, ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION: THE ELDERLY ARE OFTEN VICTIMS BY SCOTT D. YOST 14 UNCLE ORSON BY ORSON SCOTT CARD 23 YOST COLUMN BY SCOTT D. YOST 35 UNDER THE HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 4 RHINO SHORTS 6 PUZZLE ANSWERS 17 REAL ESTATE 18 NYT CROSSWORD 19 CHILDREN’S SCHEDULE 19 SUDOKU 21 SOUND OF THE BEEP 28 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 24 HARDWOOD LAMINATE AREA RUGS CARPET VINYL TILE 336-288-6643 336-288-6643 Any Size Rooms! Cover: The India Association of the Triad held its Summer Fest at LeBauer Park on Saturday. Photo by Sandy Groover. More photos page 30 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF John Hammer managing editor ELAINE HAMMER PUBLISHER Roy Carroll GENERAL MANAGER Joann Zollo creative director ANTHONY COUNCIL INCLUDES Installation! Pad! Moving Furniture! Take Up & Disposal! county editor SCOTT D. YOST contributing editor ORSON SCOTT CARD advertising consultants DONNA GOODWIN 216 West Market Street, Greensboro NC 27401 P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro NC 27429 | (336) 763-4170 (336) 763-2585 fax | sales@rhinotimes.com | www.rhinotimes.com Mobile Showroom A + This sale can not be combined with any other offers. See store for details. Call Today & We’re On Our Way! 1 Year Interest Free Financing! on approved credit Area’s Largest selection of Pet Friendly flooring 1yr INTEREST FREE financing on approved credit Greensboro • Wilmington • Myrtle Beach 336-288-6643 2837 Battleground Avenue, Greensboro • Mon-Fri 8am-6pm • Sat 10am-4pm

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    6 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Democrats Get Organized: District 8 Going From Worst To First by Scott D. Yost One lesson that can be taken from the Democratic political war that took place in April in Guilford County Board of Commissioners District 8 is this: Don’t cross Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston. The District 8 precinct, G-69, that nearly singlehandedly kept Alston from regaining a vacant seat on the Board of Commissioners had three executive members – a chairman, vice chair and secretary – and, in the wake of the heated contest that Alston won, all three of those precinct executives have now resigned their posts and moved out of town. When former District Skip Alston 8 Guilford County Commissioner Ray Trapp stepped down from the District 8 county commissioners seat in early April to take a job with NC A&T State University, all heck broke lose during the special election process to fill that Sudoku Solution From last week’s issue vacancy. When a handful of whites on the Guilford County Democratic Party Executive Committee – led by the three from precinct G-69 – came this close to keeping the highly popular Alston from taking that seat in the largely black district, there was outrage. And now, two months later, the chips are still falling and the county Democratic Party is scrambling to make sure nothing like that ever happens again. The reason a small group of whites could nearly “hijack” the special election (to use Alston’s word) is that about three-quarters of the precincts in the district weren’t organized – which meant those that were, mostly white districts, had much more say in the process than the mostly black precincts that weren’t organized, since precinct chairs and vice chairs get weighted votes in the special party elections such as the one held to fill Trapp’s seat. Crossword Solution From last week’s issue B E T T E A P B S L A S S O K P O P U T A H N L O O T A L I E N V A N E Y A X I S T O N Y N O M A D E W E R S T I R U P A H O R N E T S N E S T D E I B O Y M A C H U S T A B M I X O N E S M E T A P H O R S C O S E C A N T T O X I N S T B A A M I S H F R I G A S P E D G L A M B E A T A D E A D H O R S E N A N O S I R L A T C T S A V I A P O U R M O N E Y D O W N T H E D R A I N A C N E N O S W O O U R L S T A G C U T A P O O R F I G U R E H A W S M A R N E R K G B S O C A L A V A D E C O D E R E P T I L E S S E R V E S T W O M A S T E R S N A S A S E L E S R C A A N G A R E C I P E F O R D I S A S T E R A L A S D A M O N U Z I S V O I C E Y O G I U M P E D T A D A E F R O N E X E C P O S T S S N O W S T E N T In the end, Alston won the seat on the Board of Commissioners by the skin of his teeth over LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activist and local Black Lives Matter leader April Parker – and, as soon as he did, he began striking back. Alston orchestrated filing a protest to the county and state Democratic executive committees and he and other Democratic officials have been on a blitzkrieg effort ever since to organize District 8 and transform it in a matter of months from the least organized Democratic district in the county to the most organized. Party officials now expect that, by mid-July, 100 percent of the precincts in District 8 will be organized. The three white leaders who led the opposition against Alston were Precinct G-69 Chairman Ryan Butler, Vice Chair Anne Evangelista and former NC District 58 Rep. Chris Sgro – who all left Greensboro right after the highly contentious proceedings of the special election. Alston said it wasn’t because of anything he did and he insists he isn’t riding people out of town on rails. “That was just a coincidence,” Alston said. “I’m not taking credit for that.” He also said that, just because he’s now sitting on the Board of Commissioners and the three leaders of the opposition are gone, it doesn’t mean he is letting go of the protest. Alston said that the complaint regarding the District 8 election – and what Alston said were improprieties in the way Precinct G-69 was organized – are still relevant concerns. The protest was filed by Guilford County Board of Education member Deena Hayes, who lives in that precinct. Among the complaints about the way the precinct was formed, Alston said, is that the meeting was held in Butler’s home rather than in a public place, proper notice to citizens wasn’t given and there were no blacks present at the meeting – and therefore there was no African-American representation in the precinct leadership, even though G-69 is 88 percent black. “The complaint is still live,” Alston said. “I don’t care if they did leave town.” He said that Hayes had filed the protest with his backing so that things like this wouldn’t happen in the future. “We have to get a hearing and make a determination of a violation,” Alston said of the situation that almost cost him a seat on the Board of Commissioners. “It’s the principle of the thing. It’s a clear violation. What they tried to get away with was totally disrespectful and they almost got away with it. They had a motive to manipulate the votes and you had a small group of whites trying to oppose the will of the black district.” Alston also said that, as polarizing and contentious as the special election was, his goal is for something positive to come out of it – the complete organization of precincts in District 8. He said that’s why he and other party leaders have been on a mission to organize all the precincts in that district and make sure it’s all done in an aboveboard manner with a large amount of citizen participation where the will of the people is reflected in the party leadership. “My goal was to get the precinct organized in 90 days,” Alston said. He added that it’s been about 45 days since he took office and he and others are about halfway done with organizing the district. “By July 15, every precinct will be organized even if I have to do it every week,” he said. Bess Lewis, the executive director of the Guilford County Democratic Party, said this has been a productive time for the party and the anxiety surrounding the special election has died down. “It’s relatively calm,” Lewis said. She also said Guilford County and state Democratic officials are working their way through the protest procedure. “This is an ongoing process,” Lewis said. Lewis added that there was now a refocused effort to organize Democratic precincts across all of Guilford County, not just District 8. She said that, after a recent party election, the local Democratic Party has new people in key positions and everyone is working hard to organize precincts. One vice chair is focused on organizing precincts across Greensboro, another is dedicated to doing so in High Point and a third is focused on organizing the other parts of Guilford County. The county party also has a new chairman. Ralph Rodland, the former party chairman who ran the first April meeting to find Trapp’s replacement, resigned just days after that heated meeting even though he’d only held the job for two weeks. New Guilford County Democratic Party Chairman Nicole Quick was elected last month and now, after serving about three weeks, she’s already been at the helm longer than her predecessor and she expects to keep at it for the whole two-year term. Quick graduated St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, North Carolina, before getting her master’s degree in economics at the University of South Carolina. She worked as an efficiency manager before having a child and leaving that job to raise him and work for various causes. Quick, who’s been active in supporting programs that address autism, has a son who is autistic. Quick said the three vice chairs in (continued on page 11)

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 7 Greensboro Uses Odd Economic Incentive to Steal Nano Company from High Point by John Hammer The Greensboro City Council on Tuesday, June 6, unanimously voted to offer a $1.2 million economic incentive grant to Gateway University Research Park, a joint venture of North Carolina A&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The money will go toward the construction a new building at the Gateway University campus on Gate City Boulevard that will in part be leased to Nanotex, which will move its operation from High Point to Greensboro. The grant is unusual in several respects. One is that A&T and UNCG are both state universities, and it is abnormal for Greensboro to be giving money to the state. Usually the money flows the other way, from the state to the city. It’s also unusual to provide funding to build a building. Typically, if any help was coming from the city, it would be in the form of infrastructure – streets, sidewalks, extending water and sewer lines – that would also benefit the city, not just in handing out money for a new structure. Although the incentive is supposed to help entice Nanotex to move its operation from High Point to Greensboro, the grant is going to Gateway, not to Nanotex, which uses nanotechnology in creating products that make textiles water, odor, stain and wrinkle resistant. Nanotex is part of Crypton Inc., headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The name of the company has not been officially released, but City Councilmember Sharon Hightower either said “Nanotex” or “nanotech” at the meeting. Whatever she actually said, she did give away the name of the company. So the $1.2 million economic incentive grant is going to Gateway, which doesn’t pay property taxes. But one of the justifications for granting economic incentives to private businesses is that the money is used to improve the property, which increases the property value, so that the city will get its money back in property taxes. City Councilmember Justin Outling said that the city would benefit from the 25 jobs and the increased taxes from the employees, but that this was not the way the benefit, from an economic incentive, was ordinarily measured. He said that in this case, because of the city’s commitment to go after advanced manufacturing, he thought it was “worth doing something a little new.” But he agreed that this was not an ordinary economic incentive. Outling said, “One thing that popped out at me was the $1.2 million economic incentive request. The exact amount we had for east Greensboro.” City Councilmember Mike Barber said, “While many of the projects we fund are terrific, we tend to compromise some of our guidelines when it pertains to east Greensboro.” As Outling noted, the amount of the grant is $1.2 million, which happens to be the exact amount that the City Council set aside on Feb. 16, 2016 to spend in economic incentives in east Greensboro. An economic incentive grant is supposed to be based on how much the company needs, not how much the city has set aside in an account to give away. But it doesn’t seem like it could be a coincidence that Gateway said that it needed the exact amount that was available. And reports are that it isn’t a coincidence. The original request from Gateway was for a lesser amount and the City Council raised the amount to $1.2 million. If a lesser amount was enough to get the project underway, then why pay the state $1.2 million? The state has a budget of over $22 billion; Greensboro is not going to buy any friends in state government with a couple hundred thousand. But for some other business considering east Greensboro, a couple hundred thousand could make the difference between Greensboro and some competing town or city such as Graham, which has reeled in a number of companies that also looked at Greensboro. The city is not taking the $1.2 million from one fund but is using 2006 bonds and 2016 bonds to fund the project so that it doesn’t entirely deplete the money set aside for east Greensboro. But it is the amount the council voted last year to spend on economic development grants in east Greensboro. If Greensboro is going to start sending money upstream to the state, maybe it should also send a couple million to the federal government. As noted in the article on the city budget on page 10, Greensboro is flush with money and is not simply giving it away to the City Council’s favorite nonprofits, but is now also giving it away to the state. NEED CASH? Cherry’s Fine Guns is looking to buy or consign guns. We are interested in most handguns, most antiques and some long guns. If you are looking to put some cash in your pocket, give Kevin Cherry or Gurney Brown a call today. Please call Gurney or Kevin for details at 854-4182. Our offi ce hours are Monday thru Friday 8 until 5. Be sure to call us before bringing in your guns so we can have the proper expertise available when you arrive FINE GUNS 3408 WEST WENDOVER AVENUE, SUITE N. GREENSBORO, NC 27407 Phone: 854-4182, 24-hour Fax: 854-4184 E-mail: fineguns@cherrys.com

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    8 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Citizens Don’t Get Tax Cut in County Budget, But Manager Gets Spin Doctor by Scott D. Yost The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has agreed on a budget deal that will keep county property taxes at current levels (though with a reduced tax rate), fund $5 million more in operating funds to Guilford County Schools and add nearly 30 new county positions, including a public relations specialist. Budget tweaks may continue up until Thursday evening, June 15, when a final 2017-2018 county budget will be adopted, so last minute changes are always possible. However, as the Rhino Times went to press, all major aspects of the new county budget had been agreed upon if not set in stone. On Wednesday, June 14, there was a last ditch effort by some Democratic commissioners to get the Republican commissioners to add $2 million to the operating budget for the school system, but it does not appear as though that effort will be successful. The five Republican county commissioners who hold a majority on the nine-member board are all expected to vote in favor of the new 2017-2018 budget, and some Democratic commissioners may vote for it as well. The budget expected to be adopted totals $606.84 million, which is roughly $6 million more than the current budget adopted last year at this time. The new budget deal lowers Guilford County’s property tax rate 2.45 cents – from 75.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value to 73.05 cents. However, that’s not a real tax decrease even though it looks like one because it keeps revenues from property taxes at current levels due to a recent countywide property revaluation that goes into effect this fiscal year. The average property owner’s tax bill from the county should be the same; however, a particular property owner’s tax bill may be higher or lower depending on whether their property increased or decreased compared to the average. In most cases, property values increased during the revaluation, which is why the board has to reduce the tax rate to maintain the status quo regarding taxes. Some Republican commissioners have made it a point to emphasize during the budget talks in the preceding weeks that keeping the county’s tax rate where it was would have been equivalent to imposing a large tax increase on county property owners. Guilford County Schools had asked for $198.6 million of county money for school operations, which would have been $10.2 million more than in the 2016-2017 budget. The county budget that’s expected to be adopted on June 15 offers the school system $193.9 million for operations – $5 million more than in 2016-2017. The new funding will move Guilford County’s per pupil funding from $2,419 per student to $2,439. The majority of the school system’s budget, just over $716 million in 2016- 2017, comes from the state. The new 2017-2018 budget that commissioners plan to adopt Thursday night also includes $6.5 million for school maintenance and repair – $500,000 more than in the current budget. That falls $3.5 million short of the school system’s $10 million request for capital needs. In the final days of budget negotiations, one of the last remaining things that was under debate was the capital funding for the school system – though that number isn’t expected to change before a final (continued on next page) Tom Foolery CLEAN, SECURE, SAFE, INDOOR www.Beesafe.com on NC Highway 68 near I-40 • Loading dock available at the Battleground location Tom Foolery • All interior storage units are fully climate controlled • Sizes from 5’ x 5’ to 10’ x 30’ • Wine storage with temperature and humidity control • Wine storage units from 2’ x 2’ to 3’ x 6’ • Postal service available onsite at the Battleground location 3 GREAT LOCATIONS 1016 Battleground Avenue Greensboro, NC (336) 332-0123 4435 Jessup Grove Road Greensboro, NC (across from Proehlifi c Park) (336) 605-3202 NOW OPEN 704 Sunshine Way, Greensboro on NC Highway 68 near I-40 (336) 279-7100

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 9 spin (continued from previous page) budget is adopted. Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing will be pleased that he’s getting something in this budget that he has asked for and been denied for years – a position dedicated to communicating with the public and raising awareness of the county government’s initiatives, events and positive achievements. The new “communications specialist” will fall under the clerk to the board’s office. For years, Lawing has wanted a public information officer (PIO) as well as an assistant position to help handle those duties. While this is only one position, and it carries a different title and falls under the clerk, the communications specialist will in fact take on many of the duties Lawing has wanted to see covered. The county commissioners have added some new positions to the proposed budget Lawing presented to the board in May. For instance, Lawing didn’t recommend adding any new emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics to the county’s payroll, however, the Board of Commissioners is expected to add 10 new Emergency Service positions to provide some of each. Commissioner Alan Perdue was the director of Guilford County Emergency Services before being elected commissioner, and having him on the board helped that cause. Perdue has spoken ardently about the need for more EMTs in Guilford County to meet increasing demand. The final 2017-2018 budget is expected to also include a new position for the Family Justice Center, which is seeing a large caseload. That addition may help pull in Democratic Commissioner Kay Cashion’s vote Thursday night. In addition, the new budget deal includes adding five school nurse positions, with one of those being a supervisor. Guilford County Health Director Merle Green requested 10 new school nurse positions this year, while Lawing’s budget proposed adding four. Lawing’s budget also included a new part-time Register of Deeds position that will allow the deeds office to be the only “walk-in” passport office in the county. The commissioners are expected to preserve funding for that position in the adopted budget because Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen has convinced them it will generate more revenue than it costs. While the deeds office is getting what it wants, the commissioners aren’t expected to give Sheriff BJ Barnes a position he has been requesting to oversee the issuance and renewal of concealed carry permits in Guilford County. Barnes said that there are over 23,000 such permits in Guilford County, which is why the position is needed, but it doesn’t look like the sheriff will get his wish this year. One area where the Democrats, when they were in control of the Board of Commissioners, were more taxpayer friendly than the Republicans in charge now is the unappropriated fund balance – essentially the county’s savings account. The Local Government Commission, which oversees the financial stability of local governments in North Carolina, is satisfied with counties keeping a minimum of 8 percent in this account; however, the Guilford County commissioners in the new budget will have over 13 percent in reserve. The deal reached by the commissioners also includes funds for raises for county employees this year. The budget likely to be adopted will increase the funding available for raises by 3 percent – not as much as employees would like to see but it is something. In May 2008, Guilford County citizens approved $457 million in a giant school bond referendum, and in June 2017, Guilford County is still paying back that debt – as it will be for another 10 years or so. The 2017- 2018 county budget expected to be adopted includes about $75 million to pay off debt acquired for Guilford County Schools. About $7.3 million is for new debt issued this spring to fund school system projects. Speaking of school costs, the budget likely to be adopted includes $300,000 to help fund a school facilities study that will examine building needs, district lines and other issues that contribute to school system costs. The commissioners hope the study will result in savings in future years by offering new administrative and construction strategies. The Board of Commissioners is participating jointly with Guilford County Schools in implementing that study. The budget deal arrived at by the Republican commissioners calls for Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) to get just over $15 million in county dollars for its operating budget – an increase of $500,000 over fiscal 2016-2017. The budget will fund GTCC capital needs, money for maintenance and repair of facilities, for instance, at the same level as last year – $1.5 million. The anticipated budget will provide about $11 million in 2017- 2018 to pay down debt acquired for construction and repairs at GTCC over the years. The budget includes close to $50,000 for new furniture and video capabilities in the county manager’s conference room and in the human resources conference areas, as well as some funding for security guards for social services operations. It includes $242,000 for the medical and mental health needs of inmates and $80,000 in supplies for a new DNA crime lab run by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department. About a decade ago, the board used to give a great deal of money away to charities, nonprofits and other organizations known as “communitybased organizations” or “CBO’s,” but now that number has come down dramatically. However, a few pet projects are expected to get funded in the 2017-2018 budget under the guise of “tourism and economic development” expenditures. The current county budget deal approves $20,000 to the Friends of John Coltrane for the annual jazz festival in High Point, $50,000 to the High Point Arts Council and $55,000 to the ArtsGreensboro. It’s also expected to include $25,000 for the National Folk Festival held in downtown Greensboro each year. And, of course, no Guilford County budget would be complete without the central pillar of economic development – the African American Atelier in downtown Greensboro. That museum, which will get $50,000 in county taxpayer money in this budget, is run by 12th District Congresswoman Alma Adams, who’s good friends with Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, which is one big reason the atelier gets county money every year. The budget deal for 2017-2018 includes $40,000 for downtown Greensboro Inc. and $20,000 for East Greensboro Now, which formerly went by the name of East Market Street Development Corp. It also includes $100,000 for the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and the same amount for the High Point Economic Development Corp. The budget gives $75,000 to the High Point Market Authority to help put on the furniture market and it ponies up another $100,000 for the county to continue its membership in the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA). Each of those payments to cultural and economic development organizations is staying the same as it was in the Guilford County budget (continued on page 13)

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    10 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, June 15, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com City Tax Increase Fails to Ruffle Feathers by John Hammer The Greensboro City Council will pass a $533 million budget next week that includes a sizable tax increase and that is, with only a couple of exceptions, the budget that was presented to the council by City Manager Jim Westmoreland on May 16. The City Council gave Westmoreland few directions on the budget before he prepared it. Mainly the council said it wanted to keep the tax rate the same – which actually results in a 2.1 cent tax increase – and that they wanted a raise for the Police and Fire departments. The City Council has made two significant changes; both came at the request of At-large City Councilmember Mike Barber and were supported by the majority of the City Council. Westmoreland’s budget included a 5 percent raise for police officers and firefighters. Barber said that the raise for sworn police officers and firefighters needed to be higher to allow Greensboro to recruit, train and keep public safety officers. Barber suggested a 7.5 percent increase and his suggestion was supported by the rest of the City Council, with the notable exception of Councilmembers Sharon Hightower and Jamal Fox. The Police Department was unable to fill its last training class and has also been losing police officers to other departments in the state that pay more and have less police controversy. At nearly every Greensboro City Council meeting, the Police Department is verbally attacked by speakers from the floor. Most are followers of Nelson Johnson of the Beloved Community Center, who has been fighting against the Police Department since the Klan- Communist shootout of 1979. Johnson was a leader of the Communist Workers Party (CWP), which was holding the “Death to the Klan” march that led to the shootout between the Klan and the CWP where four white and one black supporter of the CWP were killed. Johnson blamed the lack of police protection for those deaths and has been a vocal opponent of the Greensboro Police Department ever since. Not every city has an aging communist organizing constant verbal assaults on its police department, and it puts the Greensboro Police Department at a disadvantage when recruiting and retaining police officers. The City Council can’t do much about Johnson, but it can raise wages – which it plans to – and that should help. Barber said that it was vital for the City Council to make a bold statement of support for the Police Department and he thought the 7.5 percent raise did that. Hightower said that no city employee was more important than any other city employee, and if the police received a 7.5 percent raise every city employee deserved a 7.5 percent raise. Westmoreland’s budget does include a 3 percent raise for city employees and that has remained unchanged. The other notable change made to the budget by the City Council was an adjustment in the proposed city water rate increase. Westmoreland’s budget included a 3.75 percent increase for city residents and a 1 percent increase for water users outside the city. Those outside the city currently pay about 240 percent more than city residents. At the request of Barber, the budget was revised so that there will be a 3.25 percent increase for city residents and 5.5 percent for those residing outside the city. Otherwise, the City Council increased the handouts to some nonprofits and added some that hadn’t make the manager’s budget. The vast majority of the budget was never discussed by the City Council either before or after the budget was presented. Councilmember Tony Wilkins made a motion that the city not raise taxes, but stick with the revenue neutral tax rate, which is 61.14 cents. Only Wilkins and Barber voted in favor of not raising taxes. There has been more confusion than normal about the tax rate because the News & Record reported that Greensboro was not raising taxes and that Guilford County was lowering taxes. In fact, Greensboro is raising taxes and Guilford County is keeping taxes the same as in the current year. Because all the property in Guilford County was revalued last year, and the average property increased in value, keeping the property tax rate the same means that people will pay more in taxes on the same property, and the city will collect more revenue. The state requires local governments to publish the “revenue neutral” tax rate after a revaluation, so the property owners will know what the tax rate should be. The City Council kept the tax rate the same, which means the average property owner will pay more property tax, while Guilford County went with the revenue neutral tax rate, which means the average property owner will pay the same property tax in 2017 that they paid in 2016. This year is done. The Greensboro City Council canceled its scheduled June 13 budget work session, so no further changes to the budget are expected. In fact, cancelling the budget work session probably kept the spending down because this council likes to spend money, and another meeting would have almost certainly meant more money for nonprofits, while Hightower has been lobbying for a bigger raise for city employees. In fact, one issue about the budget that has been left up in the air is how the City Council will pass the budget. Hightower said that she wants to be able to pull out the parts she doesn’t support, like the raise for police officers, and vote against those portions of the budget. It would be a first, and her request didn’t receive much support at the last council meeting when she announced it. But considering the budget is set, but the way the City Council approves it is not, here is a suggestion for next year’s budget. Zero-based budgeting means starting every government department at zero and having them justify every expense. It’s never going to happen. But how about a budget based on actual spending rather than the previous year’s budget? The actual amount of money spent this year is not available because the year isn’t over yet. But the actual audited figures are available for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and in the current economy things aren’t changing much from year to year. The rate of inflation is about 2 percent, and in Greensboro the population growth is about 1.5 percent. So if you take the actual amount of money spent in 2015-2016, which was $462 million, and add 3.5 percent growth, you should come up with a budget figure for the current year 2016-2017 that would be sustainable, (continued on page 16)

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