Last week, during an impromptu meeting on the budget, City Council members set a new deadline of Monday to submit proposals for a spending plan that might get the six votes needed for passage.
But council members submitted only two plans Monday and neither differs significantly from earlier proposals that were rejected in Thursdays meeting.
That leaves only six days until a scheduled June 25 vote on adopting a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July. State law says the city must adopt a property tax rate by June 30, but City Manager Curt Walton has said he will have an emergency measure ready to keep the city paying its bills and employees on an interim basis if no agreement is reached.
The sticking point is Waltons proposal for a $926 million capital plan through 2020 that would be funded by an 8 percent property tax increase.
During budget discussions in March, April and May, only the two council Republicans voiced significant opposition to the tax increase. But on June 11, in a surprise vote, four Democrats voted with them in shooting down the plan.
That left City Council scrambling to find a capital spending plan that could get six votes.
Last week, Democrat Michael Barnes, who voted against the budget June 11, offered four scenarios for a less ambitious capital plan. All four either delayed or scrapped a controversial streetcar project, expected to cost $119 million.
His suggestions gained some support, but faced stiff opposition from Democrats John Autry and Patsy Kinsey, whose districts include part of the streetcar route.
On Monday, Barnes made another suggestion. Democrats Claire Fallon and Beth Pickering who both voted against the budget also made a proposal, which is nearly identical to the Barnes plan.
The latest Barnes plan would cut the capital improvement program by $269.3 million. Some of his cuts include the streetcar ($119 million); plans to link a greenway across the city ($35 million); a bridge across Interstate 85 ($15 million); a new police substation for south Charlotte ($9 million); and road improvements west of Charlotte/Douglas Airport ($13 million). He also proposed reducing the amount of money spent on affordable housing by $20 million over eight years.
The Fallon/Pickering plan would cut the capital program by $256.3 million. The only difference is that it would keep the $13 million for road improvements near the airport.
City staff was evaluating the plans Monday and couldnt comment on how they would impact a proposed tax increase.
Its likely, however, that both plans would require a property tax increase of about 2.4 cents for every $100 of taxable property. The original proposal was for an increase of 3.6 cents.
Mecklenburg Countys budget for the upcoming year will reduce its property tax rate by 2.44 cents.
Republican Warren Cooksey has said he could vote for a capital plan that raises taxes by 2.44 cents. He said that would ensure that no one would have a higher tax bill this year than last.
Cooksey has proposed setting the property tax rate on June 25 and then deciding later what should be cut from the capital plan.
Walton said Monday thats an option. But if the city wants to have a bond referendum in November, it will have to decide in early July what will be in the capital program.
The window on having a referendum is starting to close, Walton said.
He said state law requires a number of steps that must be taken to have a vote in November. He said deciding in mid-July would be too late.
The city of Charlotte historically approves a property tax rate to pay for a capital plan, and then asks voters to approve the projects in a bond referendum.
Walton said his staff will accept new budget proposals this week before the June 25 vote.
On June 11, when council voted 6-5 against City Manager Curt Waltons proposed $926 million capital plan, Mayor Anthony Foxx said it was one of the most irresponsible decisions the council has made because it offered no alternative plan.
Foxx didnt offer any alternatives Monday, though his office said he has been lobbying some council members by phone to find a budget that can be approved.
In early May, he had suggested the capital program be trimmed by 10 percent, and said that earlier plan would be a good place to start.
He also said he will propose council members meet earlier than scheduled on June 25 to discuss various cuts.
While some of the council members who voted no appeared to be searching for ways to find middle ground, there were signs that some of the yes votes were hardening their position.
Democrat David Howard, who voted for the budget on June 11, had previously said he would support a budget that only raised the property tax rate by 2.44 cents.
On Monday he backed away from that offer.
We all did our homework, said Howard of the five council members who voted for the budget. (The no votes) need to go back to where we all were three weeks ago.