New city budget outlook makes tax rate hike less likely

02/26/2014 5:11 PM

02/27/2014 9:16 AM

Charlotte’s latest budget forecast has more money coming into the city than previously thought, making a property tax rate increase less likely than a month ago.

Since the city’s first budget meeting in January, the city now projects the impact of Mecklenburg County’s property revaluation will be less than first thought. The county’s 2011 property review was flawed, and the county is currently examining all taxable property to see if owners are paying the correct amount.

“The property tax is performing better,” said City Manager Ron Carlee. “We think the evaluation will have less of an impact than projected.”

A month ago, the city’s budget outlook included a 1.7 percent property tax rate increase. At Wednesday’s budget meeting, city staff didn’t present the City Council with a scenario in which there was any tax rate hike.

The City Council last year raised property taxes by 7.25 percent to pay for an $816 million capital spending plan.

Mecklenburg County also raised its tax rate in 2013 but has said it might be able to cut the tax rate this year due to higher revenues than expected.

For fiscal year 2015, the city’s general fund is projected to be $578 million. A month ago, it was forecast to be $569 million without a tax rate increase and $575 million with a small increase.

In January, the city outlined some needs, such as a 3 percent raise for employees; new fire ladder companies for the areas around Eastland and Northlake Mall; and up to $500,000 to plant trees.

The city is also gearing up to begin testing the first phase of the streetcar under construction in uptown. The Charlotte Area Transit System will operate the streetcar, but the city will pay $750,000 in operating costs next year out of general fund revenues.

Residents could have to pay more for some services in the upcoming year.

CATS has proposed raising bus and train fares from $2 to $2.20.

When the Lynx Blue Line opened in the fall of 2007, the cost of a one-way ticket was $1.30. The higher fares means that bus and train riders are now paying a greater share of the cost of their ride.

The city also proposed Wednesday increasing stormwater fees by 7 percent. The lowest tier of stormwater fees would increase from $5.36 a month to $5.63.

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