After an hour of discussing different ways to pay for a streetcar Tuesday, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx asked City Council members which proposals they liked best.
The response: Silence.
These are the crickets I was worried about, said Foxx, who is trying to forge a budget compromise that includes a streetcar.
A $119 million streetcar extension derailed a capital budget in the summer, causing Foxx to begin 2013 budget discussions months earlier than usual.
But it might still be difficult to find six council votes for the project.
At Tuesdays meeting, city staff had prepared a long list of ways to pay for a streetcar.
They include charging fares for the streetcar (the city has planned for it to be free); increasing the special property tax rate charged to property owners inside Interstate 277; and soliciting donations from businesses and institutions along the line, such as Johnson & Wales University.
Another option would be to use a portion of new property taxes created from development along the line.
City Manager Curt Walton told council members all of those options had been studied, but he decided to propose funding the streetcar with property taxes.
These all have some kind of issues, Walton said.
He said that a special assessment would put a burden on undeveloped property, which would undermine one of the streetcars goals of economic development.
All of the above funding options could be done by the City Council. The city also listed a number of options that would raise more money, but would require approval from the General Assembly in Raleigh.
They include increasing the rental car tax, hotel/motel tax or prepared food and beverage tax; levying a special fee on parking spaces; or lobbying for a higher vehicle registration fee.
The city will soon begin building the first 1.5 miles of a streetcar line that will run from Time Warner Cable Arena to Presbyterian Hospital in Elizabeth. That will cost $37 million, with the federal government contributing $25 million through a grant.
The citys long-range plan is for the line to run from the Rosa Parks Transit Center on Beatties Ford Road to the old Eastland Mall site.
Earlier this year, Walton proposed a $926 million capital plan, which included $119 million for a streetcar extension. That would have taken the line through uptown to Johnson C. Smith University.
But six of 11 council members balked at Waltons plan, with the streetcar being the primary hang up.
In June, council members Michael Barnes, Andy Dulin, Warren Cooksey, Beth Pickering, Claire Fallon and Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon backed a smaller capital budget without the streetcar. Foxx vetoed their plan.
On Tuesday, most of those officials said they would be OK with extending a streetcar line, so long as other funds were used in addition to the property tax.
But there was no clear direction Tuesday as to what other taxes or funding sources they want to use. Foxx has said he hoped to vote on a firm streetcar plan by Nov. 26, though that could be difficult.
Other council members are still pushing for the streetcar to be fully funded in the capital program, through property taxes.
Its our responsibility to get this done, said council member John Autry, who represents east Charlotte, where part of the line would be built. Its this bodys responsibility to build infrastructure.