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Bottom of the Ballot: Bond Placement Concerns City Leaders

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RALEIGH — Raleigh city leaders are asking for your permission to spend millions of dollars on to improve affordable housing, roads and parks. The city's $75 million bond proposals will cover the cost, but voters first have to give the nod Tuesday.

The city is worried about the placement of the bonds on the ballot -- they are the very last items. They are also concerned that voters will have "bond overload" when they wade through state and county bonds before getting to the city measures on the ballot.

Meanwhile, officials are trying to convince city residents of why Raleigh needs to take on a $75-million debt. City leaders say the end justifies the means -- they have some specific plans for the money. Officials Say Transportation Bonds May Break Some GridlockThe $45 million in road improvements would help with the construction, widening and improvement of streets in the city, leaders say.

One of the 17 road construction projects the city would pursue is the widening of Falls of the Neuse Road from Strickland Road to the vicinity of Interstate 540 in north Raleigh. City Wants More Affordable HousingThe city wants $14 million to make more affordable housing available in Raleigh. Leaders say $9 million will support joint-venture projects, with the remaining $5 million funding city-owned rental projects and land acquisition.

They say the housing bonds will provide loan funds for housing, with most of the benefits going to people with low and moderate incomes. The money will also help the city acquire more land and build rental units.

"The city owns about 230 units which are scattered throughout the city," says city manager Dempsey Benton. Leaders Want to Spruce Up Old ParksCity officials say the $16 million in parks bonds will be used to improve and expand existing city parks, as well as purchasing park land for new recreation areas.

"I would say, after you've satisfied the need of transporting people and providing shelter for them, you have to have a way for them to use their leisure time," says Wayne Marshall, chairman of the city parks and recreation board.

Marshall says that Pullen Park on Western Boulevard is one of ten parks that would benefit from the bonds. How Will the Bonds Be Repaid?The bonds are part of the city's strategy of doing business and minimizing the financial hardship on taxpayers. To that end, city officials say that none of the bonds will result in any new taxes. They say grown in sales-tax revenues and the expansion of the city's tax base makes that possible.

Raleigh resident Kathie Muzzey says the promise of no new taxes is not enough for her to sign off on the road bonds.

"We need to concentrate on doing some light-rail mass transportation," she says.