Politics & Government

New Charlotte budget adds police officers – without higher taxes

The Charlotte City Council approved a $581.4 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year Monday.
The Charlotte City Council approved a $581.4 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year Monday. cmetzler@charlotteobserver.com

More police officers. A focus on neighborhood improvements. And thanks to booming construction that has generated new tax revenue, no property tax increase.

Those are the highlights of the city of Charlotte’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which City Council passed unanimously Monday night.

Though the tax rate is staying the same, water bills and a solid waste fee are going up.

All water customers will pay nearly $21 more a year on their bills. The garbage fee will be increased by $6 a year under City Manager Marcus Jones’ budget.

The airport doesn’t expect to raise parking rates this year. And the Charlotte Area Transit System will keep bus and train fares the same.

Charlotte’s general fund budget is expected to be $581.4 million – a 5.3 percent increase over the previous year. The general fund pays for things like police and fire, code enforcement, planning and zoning and roads.

“This budget makes it clear that we believe spreading opportunity to every corner in this city is a priority,” Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said Monday.

After the Keith Scott protests and riots last year, the City Council issued a “Letter to the Community,” which said it would focus on three areas: police accountability and the department’s relationship with the community; affordable housing, bringing new jobs to the city.

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

▪ The city hired 63 police 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.

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.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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