Local News

Raleigh Approves Budget With Property-Tax Increase

Posted June 29, 2004 9:11 a.m. EDT

— It is official. For the first time in more than 10 years, Raleigh homeowners will see their property taxes go up.

Tuesday, the City Council passed its budget for next year, and homeowners are not the only ones facing rising costs.

Yes, there are higher taxes and fees, but it could have been a lot worse. The city manager originally proposed a property-tax hike of 8 percent. The increase approved Tuesday is just over 2.

The stalemate lasted two-and-a-half hours. Councillor Thomas Crowder was not willing to budge off his proposal for a license fee for rental property owners. It would have raised enough money to avoid a property-tax increase.

"This is the only business in the city that I am aware of that does not have to pay a privileged license fee," he said.

But in the end, he gave Democrats the votes they needed to approve a hike.

"Unfortunately, it takes five votes to get anything passed on this council," Crowder said, "and to keep the city moving and not have to cut major services, I had to support that."

The 2-percent property-tax increase that Crowder and the other four Democrats supported will cost the owner of a $200,000 home an extra $20 a year.

The budget also includes higher water and sewer rates and a new fee for homebuilders for re-inspections.

The city will add 74 new positions -- mostly public safety -- and all city employees will be eligible for a 1-percent merit-pay raise.

Another big winner was the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, which gets four times as much money as last year.

On the losing end was a new public-safety center, more red-light cameras and park improvements -- all of which will have to wait.

"I feel relieved we have a budget," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. "I think, overall, it's a good budget. It did take us a couple hours longer than I hoped it would, but all's well that ends well."

Tuesday's vote was along party lines, Republicans not willing to support a tax increase of any size. Councillor Philip Isley even made a last-ditch proposal for an across-the-board reduction on spending, including a salary cut for councillors. That failed.

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

Council members had hoped to pass a budget before the fiscal year ends on Wednesday.