City Budget Includes No Tax Increases, Some Hiring

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Despite a continuously bleak economy, the Raleigh city manager’s proposed budget includes no new property tax increases, no layoffs and some hiring in select departments. But, city employees will see a reduction in the tuition reimbursement limit and a 4 percent increase in dependent healthcare premiums.

City Manager Russell Allen presented his $678.9 million operating and capital budget to the city council Tuesday. It is a 2.4 percent increase from the current $660.8 million budget. About $383.6 million is allocated for the General Fund operating budget, with the capital budget taking up the remainder.

In October, voters approved a bond referendum that would result in a 0.9 percent property tax increase to fund transportation and affordable housing projects, but residents won’t see any additional tax increases, or increases in solid waste fees, stormwater fees or privilege license fees.

Allen said additional revenues are coming from a slight uptick in the property tax base and a 4 percent projected increase in sale tax collections.

Residents can expect to see an average monthly increase of $3.97 cents to their sewer and water bill.

The proposed budget will not cut funding for the arts or human services.

City Hiring
While city staffers can consider their jobs secure, the city’s 209 vacant positions will remain unfilled. But because of of an 18 percent increase in calls for emergency service and continued growth in the city, seven positions have been added to the 911 call center. The city will also hire a police department attorney and paralegal and will no longer delay the fire or police academies.

Because of a 39 percent increase in greenway miles since last year, 10 greenway maintenance employees will also be added. Additionally, five of the six highway maintenance positions that were cut during the downturn will be restored.

“We don’t even meet our own code requirements for private property,” Allen said of the ever-growing grass along Raleigh’s roadways.

Finally, five staff members will be added to Parks and Recreation to support the opening of new and renovated facilities and programs.

Current employees will see a $1,000 merit increase, but a reduction in tuition reimbursement and a 4 percent increase in dependent healthcare premiums. Allen said that healthcare costs have increased 8 percent, but the city will only be passing along half of that increase to its employees.

Tackling Deferred Maintenance
One of the major issues presented this year was tackling all of that maintenance put off during the economic downturn. Some of that maintenance can no longer wait.

This includes the purchase of a new ladder truck for the fire department and $7.9 million allocated to replace solid waste vehicles and equipment. About $10.4 million will go toward general equipment replacements.

About $5.3 million will be allocated to cover maintenance at the Municipal Building and One Exchange Plaza, along with overall energy efficiency changes.

The fire departments will see about $4.2 million in funding and the greenways $12.7 million.

Enterprise Funds
The city has five departments, or enterprises, that are suppose to be self-sustaining, but currently only two are – public utilities and stormwater. The remaining three – parking, transit and solid waste services – are subsidized by the general fund.

Solid Waste Services was recently named an enterprise, so 40 percent of its budget, or $12.7 million, will be subsidized from the general fund. Allen said that it will take five years to be at full cost recovery.

The city’s parking program continues to require extra money from the general fund as revenues from city parking decks fall behind the cost to build them. This year, the parking program will require an extra $2 million.

The transit program, which runs the Capitol Area Transit buses, will require a $17 million subsidy and does not include any expansion of bus services.

The Raleigh Convention Center and Performing Arts Center enterprise will require a $2 million subsidy to keep up with maintenance projects.

The city will hold a public hearing on June 5 and will begin its budget work sessions in June. The budget must be adopted by July 1.

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