RALEIGH, N.C. — In its first year, the
program surpassed its own goals. Raleigh sprouted more than 2,300 trees, but with growing demands on taxpayer money, critics say money for the program could be spent in a different way.
In the Amberfield South subdivision in east Raleigh, the city provided trees for residents to plant and water. As part of Mayor Charles Meeker's NeighborWoods program, the city also plants new trees in thoroughfares.
New figures show each residential tree cost over $44, which includes includes materials and staff salaries. The cost jumps significantly for a thoroughfare, anywhere from $127 per tree to nearly $600.
"The cost seems expensive, but when you compare our city to others, I really like to have the trees. It adds to the city," taxpayer Jim Leonard said.
Councilman Michael Regan likes trees too, but questions the scope of the program during tight budget times.
"If trees are part of first-class roads, making the roads look good, then I'm in favor of it, but in residential areas, I question whether that's an essential service the city is supposed to deliver," he said.
Meeker argues that a tree in one neighborhood helps the entire city.
"Trees do a lot for us on hot summer days. They cool us down. They help with stormwater, clean our air and give us that green appearance," he said.
Neighborwoods operates with about $128,000 in taxpayer money. About the same amount is budgeted for the coming year. The program also received about $57,000 in donations.