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Raleigh Contingency Plan Freezes Spending On Popular Projects

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RALEIGH, N.C. — On the first day of the new budget year, the city of Raleigh has put millions of public projects on hold.

Raleigh leaders expect the governor will withhold $16 million from the city during this budget year. They are shifting to a contingency plan that freezes spending on popular projects.

A long list of projects, including resurfacing of streets, new traffic lights, buying more green space and park improvements are on hold until money from the state is actually in hand.

At Pullen Park, $86,000 worth of repairs and improvements could get scrapped.

"I think there's an easier place to cut than from the parks and from the kids. Raleigh's such a growing area, and there's a lot of school-age kids and pre-school kids that really enjoy being in the parks," said resident Katie Tisch.

"Oh, yes. These are critical projects for our future. As a city that's growing, we have to invest in our future. So we hope the projects are only on hold for a few weeks until a state budget is passed," Mayor Charles Meeker said.

The projects are on hold until at least September, when the first payment should arrive from the state. Any money that trickles in during the budget year will go towards the $16 million. Meanwhile, Raleigh leaders are looking to the Legislature for help.

"The main thing the Legislature could do is pass a balanced budget, which would allow the funds to come to the city as they should have last year. It's only if the budget is unbalanced the the governor starts taking money from local governments," Meeker said.

City leaders call the contingency plan painful, but some Raleigh residents are glad the city is living within its means.

"It's just a time of slow spending and I think we've realized maybe we've been spending beyond what we could and it's time to do some budget tightening," resident George McCullen said.

The sales tax is scheduled to go up in July of 2003, but theLegislature could move that up to this July. The increase would cover Raleigh's $16 million shortfall.