Charlotte City Council questions $248.7 million list of new projects

A city of Charlotte wish list of $248.7 million in new projects was criticized Wednesday by City Council members, who said it was too vague.

Mayor Dan Clodfelter, who was sworn in earlier Wednesday, said the list “wasn’t ready for prime time.”

Last year, the council approved an $816 million capital spending program to build roads, bridges, sidewalks, police stations and affordable housing throughout the city. That is funded with a 7.25 percent property tax increase.

City Manager Ron Carlee said Wednesday the new list was preliminary and he wasn’t recommending they be paid for.

“I want you to have a full list of the competing needs,” he said.

The list includes: $8 million for a rental assistance program to help families and veterans; $37.5 million for transportation projects; $36 million to improve the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center; $38 million for police and fire stations, and new tree plantings, among other projects; $65 million for technology improvements; and $54 million to renovate Bojangles’ Coliseum and Time Warner Cable Arena.

The proposed renovations to the Government Center concerned council members, who said they are worried the public wouldn’t approve.

“I don’t see how we can justify $800,000 for blinds,” said council member Greg Phipps.

Budget Director Randy Harrington said the building has a lot of windows. He added it’s 26 years old and needs work.

Carlee and Harrington haven’t proposed how the city would pay for some or all of the projects. Carlee has previously said he doesn’t envision asking council members for a property tax increase.

Time Warner Cable Arena is less than 9 years old, but the city’s lease with the Charlotte Bobcats calls for the arena to be updated to be kept in line with other NBA facilities. The city is negotiating with the team about what renovations are required by the agreement.

The list of new projects isn’t part of the coming fiscal year 2015 budget.

Carlee said new revenue projections for the sales tax and property tax are growing, meaning Carlee said he won’t recommend a property tax rate increase for the coming year.

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