The Charlotte City Council passed a budget Monday night that will require the city’s wealthiest homeowners to pay more, with a small property tax increase and higher stormwater fees.
The budget, which was approved by a 7-4 vote, allows the city to close a nearly $22 million shortfall.
The property tax rate will climb by a penny for every $100 of valuation, a 2 percent increase. To counter that hike, a garbage fee paid by single-family homeowners will decrease from $47 to $25.
The swap of a higher tax rate in exchange for a smaller garbage fee means about 73 percent of city residents will pay less, which was a major selling point for council members who supported the budget.
The owner of a home valued at $350,000 would pay about $13 more a year.
But the main difference comes for people in homes with large concrete footprints, either from their driveways, foundations or decks. People with the largest amount of impervious surface – about 10 percent of homeowners – would pay nearly $12 more a month in stormwater fees.
Water bills are also increasing by about 3 percent.
Republicans Kenny Smith and Ed Driggs and Democrats Michael Barnes and Claire Fallon voted against the budget.
The other major change in the budget would affect about 2,100 small businesses that use roll-out garbage containers and have the city collect their trash. For the first time they will be charged a garbage fee, which will be $250 a year.
At the start of the budget discussion earlier this year, the city faced a nearly $22 million shortfall. That was mostly due to the General Assembly’s repeal of the business privilege license tax, which cost the city $18.1 million.
That budget gap was larger than the shortfall the city experienced after the 2008-2009 recession.
Besides the property tax increase, City Manager Ron Carlee balanced the budget with nearly $8 million in cuts to city departments, including small reductions to police and fire. Weekend hours for the 311 call center also will be cut. The city eliminated about 100 vacant positions, but there were no layoffs.
The budget still has raises for city employees, though the raise pool has decreased to 1.5 percent. The $800 million capital spending program, approved by council members in 2013, remains intact. That includes the streetcar, whose first phase is scheduled to open in July.
The debate over the budget divided council members, including those running for mayor in the fall.
Barnes, an at-large member who is running in the Democratic primary for mayor, said he couldn’t back the budget because of the tax increase.
“I don’t support the tax increase, so I can’t support the budget,” he said.
Democratic at-large council member David Howard, who is also running for mayor, said opponents were too worried about the perception of the tax increase.
“Most of you will pay less than you paid last year,” Howard said. “That’s important to remember.”
He also added: “I am tired of people blaming everything on the streetcar.”
That was a reference to comments made by Fallon earlier in the meeting. She criticized the city for keeping funding for the streetcar while not funding a new fire department ladder truck for Station 28 near Northlake Mall.
Mayor Dan Clodfelter, who is also running in the fall election, didn’t speak about the budget at Monday’s meeting. But in previous workshops he has been in favor of Carlee’s proposal.
Smith said he is worried that his south Charlotte district is becoming a “piggy bank” for the city. He cited a city study that showed that 65 percent of the homeowners in his district will pay more in taxes and fees.
▪ The property tax rate will increase from 46.87 cents to 47.87 cents for every $100 of assessed value.
▪ The garbage fee for single-family homes will decrease from $47 a year to $25 a year. The fee for each apartment will increase from $24 to $25 a year. For the first time, about 2,100 small businesses will pay new garbage fee of $250 a year.
▪ About 40 percent of homeowners will pay more in stormwater fees each month. The biggest increase is for about 10 percent of homes, those with 5,000 square feet or more of impervious surface on their property. They will pay nearly $12 more a month.