The city of Charlotte’s $816 million capital plan – minus a streetcar – inched closer to approval Monday night.
City Manager Ron Carlee gave the City Council a presentation on his operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, as well as a seven-year capital plan that would require a 7.25 percent property tax increase.
The capital plan includes money for new roads, bridges, police stations, affordable housing and sidewalks, among other projects. It’s essentially the same capital program that was defeated a year ago.
But this plan doesn’t include the streetcar, which Carlee called the “elephant in the room.” Carlee said he will present a separate plan for paying for the streetcar next week, but council members spent much of their discussion rehashing the transit project’s pros and cons.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has lobbied for the plan for more than a year, saying the city needs to invest in its low-income neighborhoods to grow its tax base. He said Monday night the city needs to have a strategy for “Baltic Avenue and Mediterranean – not just Boardwalk and Park Place,” referring to lower- and high-priced Monopoly game properties.
The City Council will hold several meetings on the budget before taking a final vote June 10.
The city’s current property tax rate is 43.7 cents for every $100 of taxable value. Carlee’s proposed capital budget would be paid for with an increase of 3.17 cents.
Property owners also face higher water and sewer bills, as well as higher fees for stormwater services.
The owner of a home with a taxable value of $300,000 will pay an additional $11.99 a month in additional taxes and fees. The owner of a $200,000 house will pay an additional $7.42 a month.
The city’s general fund will be $563.5 million for fiscal year 2014 – a 2.3 percent increase over the current year. The city faced a budget shortfall of nearly $5 million due to successful appeals of property tax valuations to Mecklenburg County.
Carlee has proposed filling that hole with one-time funds. But he said there would likely be a property tax increase of 0.8 cents next year to fill the gap.
2 percent raise pool
The operating budget for the upcoming year includes a 2 percent raise pool for city employees. Public safety workers will continue to follow a pre-approved pay plan, which calls for a half-percent cost-of-living increase and possibly a step increase.
Carlee’s plan is for the capital plan property tax increase to take effect in July. The city wouldn’t ask voters to approve bonds for the capital projects until November 2014. There also would be bond referendums in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
Streetcar still an issue
Monday’s discussion was supposed to focus on the capital plan, minus the streetcar.
But most of the discussion centered on the streetcar, which will be discussed in more depth next Monday.
Democrat Beth Pickering, an at-large member, said she wanted more money spent in west Charlotte quickly. She thinks a streetcar will take too long to help the area. Democrat Claire Fallon asked Carlee how long the streetcar would have to be subsidized.
Carlee said the city’s strategy would be for the streetcar to spark economic development to generate new property taxes.
“If we aren’t generating redevelopment, it will be a long-term deficit for us,” Carlee said.