Local News

Raleigh Council Considers Two New Budget Proposals As Deadline Looms

Posted June 29, 2004

— It is back to the bargaining table for Raleigh City Council members. The council has two new budget proposals to consider before Wednesday's deadline.

In either case, it appears a property tax increase will not be as high as originally thought.

The council started with Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen's proposal of an 8 percent property tax increase -- the first increase in more than a decade.

A proposal by Councilman Mike Regan was rejected by city council members Monday, saying his property cuts to human services were irresponsible.

"What I suggested is along the same lines upon which this nation was built, and if you look at the Constitution, you will see that the kind of things that I am suggesting the government be involved in are the same things that the founding fathers said," Regan said. "All of the things I am trying to cut out of here are all of the things the founding fathers said we (the government) shouldn't be doing."

At Monday's budget workshop, the council received two new plans -- one includes a lower tax increase and the other proposes no tax increase at all.

Mayor Charles Meeker takes the 8 percent property tax increase and reduces it to 2 percent by adding $2.5 million in additional revenue, largely from a $60 fee for homebuilders who do not pass their first inspection.

"It would raise about three-quarters of a million dollars over the course of a year. You know, we have thousands and thousands of inspections, and over time, it would raise money," Meeker said.

Some council members say that is not enough.

"I can't support a tax increase," Councilman Thomas Crowder said. "I think we have plenty of revenue resources to be able to come and address this and I'm happy to do so and still meet the needs of the citizens."

Crowder's proposal avoids a tax increase with nearly $6 million in additional revenue. More than half would come from a license fee on rental properties, something Meeker believes may be hard to enforce.

"That's what we've heard from other cities. We've heard that other cities have had a lot of trouble with it and it doesn't really generate that much money," Meeker said.

Meeker and Crowder would cut expenses by more than $4.5 million. Items on the chopping block include a new public safety center, traffic signal synchronization and red light cameras.

It is the elimination of two community service positions that struck a nerve with one council member.

"I have some real concerns when I see just right off the top, one of the smallest items that we have and it's pulled off," councilor James West said.

Council members said they needed more time to look at the two new proposals.

Meeker told the council to be prepared to take a vote Wednesday. They are under the gun to pass a budget before the fiscal year ends on Wednesday.

Allen has stated that the city needs a property tax increase in its next budget.

and

Michelle Singer

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