Down Economy Continues to Guide City Budget

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While experts say the economy is crawling upward, the recession continues to take its toll on the city’s annual budget preparations. City officials, however, say that it’s too soon to tell exactly how much the economy will impact the spending plan.

Budget Timeline

January 2012
Public hearing.
Staff begins meeting with city departments.

City manager gives a presentation on the current budget and how it is working for the city.

Early May
City manager presents proposed budget.

Early June
Public hearing to make comments on the proposed budget.
City Council meets every Monday for a budget work session.
If the budget is not adopted by the third week of June, the council begins meeting daily.

July 1
New budget goes into effect.

The release of the Raleigh’s 2012-13 budget is still months away, but city staff is already in planning mode, with regular meetings with department heads and the public. City Manager Russell Allen will present the budget in May, and the City Council will meet once a week until it’s adopted at the end of June.

The city budget cycle runs July 1 to June 30. By state law, City Council must pass a balanced budget.

Allen said the big challenge is to manage increasing costs while revenue remains stagnant. Property taxes remain low, and sales tax revenue has only increased slightly since dipping at the start of the recession.

Employee salaries and benefits make up the largest chunk of the city’s budget, but it’s too soon to tell if there will layoffs. When preparing the current budget, the city was able to avoid layoffs by not filling vacant positions, making changes to employee benefits and not giving raises. Allen told the Record that it’s possible that raises could once again be cut this year.

Population growth and the opening of new facilities are putting some strain on city finances, and Allen said staff members are trying to maintain the city services residents are used to seeing.

What the People Want
While the city held a public hearing on Jan. 3 to get input from residents, few spoke publicly about what they wish to see included in the next budget.

Resident Octavia Rainey discussed problems with the affordable housing program and the Capital Area Transit bus system. She said neither program is working sufficiently. Rainey is a member of the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force. She requested $50,000 for the creation of the New Bern-Edenton Corridor Alliance, a business partnership that would help encourage more business growth in that area.

She also requested a study for a roundabout near Saint Augustine’s College and on the city plans for redevelopment, which she believes causes segregation. She also wanted to see an increase in funding to the summer youth program.

Representing the Southwest Citizens Advisory Council, Jason Hibbets asked that the city maintain its funding for the Neighborhood Block Grant program and that some money be allocated for the Lineberry Park Master Plan.

Hibbets also requested funding for road improvements and maintenance to Tryon Road, the Tryon Road bridge replacement and Lake Wheeler Road.

Mary Freeman, president of the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities, asked the city refrain from cutting any funds to the human services program, which helps support programs within her organization. She asked that the city maintain the current level of funding and increase the budget if possible.

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