Politics & Government

Charlotte budget to add police officers, without tax increase

The proposed Charlotte budget would add 62 police officers without a property tax increase.
The proposed Charlotte budget would add 62 police officers without a property tax increase. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Thanks to a wave of new construction, you won’t have to pay higher property taxes – and the city of Charlotte will be able to add police officers and pay higher salaries – under a budget presented Monday.

The budget is growing due to the thousands of new apartments, homes and offices being built throughout the city, as Charlotte adds an estimated 44 new residents a day.

Water bills and a solid waste fee are going up, however. All water customers would pay nearly $21 more a year on their bills. The garbage fee would be increased by $6 a year under City Manager Marcus Jones’ proposed budget.

On the plus side, you wouldn’t pay more to ride the bus or light rail – the second consecutive year Charlotte Area Transit System fares have remained steady. And parking rates at the airport wouldn’t increase either.

Charlotte’s general fund budget is expected to be $581.4 million – a 5.3 percent increase over the previous year.

Jones started working for the city at the end of last year. In preparing his first budget, Jones said he focused on the City Council’s “Letter to the Community” written after the Keith Scott protests and riots. In the letter, council members pledged to improve police accountability and the department’s relationship with the community, to increase affordable housing, and to bring new jobs to the city.

Jones said he tried to put more money into each of those areas.

▪ The increase in CMPD’s budget was actually started two years ago, when Chief Kerr Putney asked for 125 new officers. The city hired 63 officers last year, and the new budget calls for another 62 officers. The city would hire another 25 support staff.

In addition, the budget calls for spending $1.3 million to buy and equip 32 new vehicles. The city has also budgeted $12.5 million for a new central division station, which serves uptown.

The Charlotte Fire Department would get $1.5 million in operating and capital money for a new ladder company in the former Eastland Mall area.

▪ The budget would provide an additional $2 million for affordable housing this year. The city’s Housing Trust Fund is usually replenished by $15 million every two years.

Council members said they wanted to build 5,000 new affordable housing units over three years instead of five years.

▪ The budget calls for an additional $8.5 million for economic development, including $3 million to redevelop North Tryon Street and $1 million to attract and retain businesses.

The city is about halfway through a roughly $800 million spending program for new capital projects. Officials have reallocated money in the capital program to fund a handful of new projects, including $6 million for new transportation projects on South Tryon, South Boulevard, West Boulevard and Parkwood/The Plaza. The improvements are designed to make the streets safer, mostly for pedestrians and bicyclists.

In her State of the City speech earlier this year, Mayor Jennifer Roberts called for the city to implement a new paid family leave policy for moms and dads. That is not in the budget.

Jones said there wasn’t enough time to implement it, though he said the city will continue to study it.

Last year, the city agreed to increase the hourly pay of its full-time workers to at least $15 an hour by 2020. That will happen a year or two sooner, Jones said.

The raise pool for city employees for the upcoming year will be 3 percent if City Council approves the budget.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs