Residents Request Increased Funding for Employees, Nonprofits

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On Tuesday night residents got a chance to weigh in on the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen’s $678.9 million operating and capital budget proposes no tax increases or employee layoffs, includes small merit raises, hiring and an increase in healthcare costs. The city council must adopt the budget by July 1.

About 15 people spoke to the budget, mostly requesting funding increases for city employees, the arts and youth organizations. Below, we have transcribed portions of these appeals. To watch the full hearing, click here.

When will it be the employees’ turn to receive something in one hand without having to give it back in the other…Raleigh firefighters know very well what it means to give your best and not receive anything in return…To test for a promotion today, Raleigh firefighters must meet educational requirements that did not exist when they were hired, yet we do not receive any educational incentive pay, employee tuition reimbursement has been slashed from $2,000, down to $1,250 now down to a proposed $1,000.

– Keith Wilder, president, Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association, Local 548

While we are please that the city manager is recommending a pay increase this time. His proposed $1,000 raise is too small. This is especially true when coupled with his proposal to again raise our rates for dependent health insurance coverage. We deserve better. Most of us have gone without a raise for three years while getting hit with large health insurance cost increases that have devastated police-family budgets…Our lagging pay means that Raleigh’s police officers and our families are being priced out of our own city. We are struggling to make ends meet. Starting pay remains at $34,000 and the lack of job reclassifications have left even those making near the top rate of $64,000 falling further behind.

– Chip Roth, communications director, Raleigh Police Protective Association and Teamsters 391

Without art Raleigh becomes Anytown, USA…Artspace is really unique and special. It’s the only historically registered building in the city that’s specifically designed for artists to do their work in that building…While I’d love to have another 10 office towers in downtown, they won’t bring what Artspace brings our community. I’m here as the board chairman to ask for the restoration for the cut that was recommended for Artspace and ask that you continue to put arts in the per capita funding.

– David Diaz, president, Downtown Raleigh Alliance and chair, Artspace Board of Directors

In the last 12 years in our effort to develop this vision of a vibrant downtown we’ve spent millions on an attempt at light rail that even the federal government wouldn’t support. We supported the council’s desire to have a white-tablecloth restaurant that also failed. What is Raleigh known for? It’s known for great schools, great basketball and great medicine. That’s our strength. Why are we trying to be a destination city? I moved here because it’s a great place to raise a kid. It’s a safe place because we have great fire and police. But no, we wanted a white tablecloth restaurant, light rail, and the one that shocked me, the NCAA museum. Where would be the best place for the NCAA museum? I think we could fight over that, but it wouldn’t be more than 10 miles from here. Who got that? Kansas City!

– Ben Levitan

Tonight, I’m asking, no, really begging you to fund this project…I’ll tell you why I beg. Recently, in our office we received a call from a teacher in Clayton so excited because she heard about existence of Sassafras and she had nine wheelchair-bound students and for the first time she was going to present them with a school year-end party of their dreams. She was bringing them, their brothers and sisters and their parents to play together on the playground like no other they have ever experienced. And we had to tell them that it was not built. There is no place in Raleigh or any place near by for these children to experience what every other children experiences every other day.

– Lenora Evans, executive director, Frankie Lemmon Foundation discussing the need for additional funding for Sassafras, a park that would be designed for disabled children

In recent years other arts appropriations that are not as a result of the Arts Commission’s scrutiny have been inserted and I believe they are threatening the intent and therefore the integrity of the process. Because of these additional items, the external arts agencies, the intended recipients for this fund are being shortchanged…This fund has seem to become a catch all for anything related to the arts, with little regard to the funding criteria or the organizations who year and year adhere to the prescribed process…I would like to request that you request that the city manager find other places to draw funds for the Carolina Ballet and for any other organization that did not apply through this process and restore these dollars for their rightful use.

– Nancy Lambert, executive director of the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild, speaking as a private citizen

WakeUp strongly encourages Raleigh to put additional resources into our transit system and into building our bus system and into incorporating other transit modes such as [rapid transit] and rail…As development continues, you have a responsibility to the community and to developers to be clear where new development should be directed. The [2030 Comprehensive Plan] speaks to this and we ask that the city gives clear policy guidance on the priority of transit and land use planning…We are all increasingly aware of the looming challenge of funding water and sewer pipe replacement. Millions of dollars obviously cannot come out of the city’s existing budget. New sources of revenue will need to be found and we encourage you to look serious at all options including sewer and capacity fees, acreage fees and cost of service for consumers. Everyone will have to pay but we need to make it fair.

– Karen Rindge, executive director, Wake Up Wake County

Our message is simple. We’re here today with just a message of gratitude. The City of Raleigh is a long-term partner of ours and we’ve been here many times before asking for more funding. We’re here today to thank you for including us in the budget for 2012 and 2013. You know our organization well. We work hard for the City of Raleigh to keep good food out of landfills and use it to feed people who are hungry and in need. We’ve also created jobs through our culinary job training program and we’re excited about creating even more jobs with our efforts through urban agriculture in the coming year. So thank you, thank you for your time and thank you for your support in the coming year.

– Melanie Reeve, Interfaith Food Shuttle

I’m here to ask the city for $50,000 for the New Bern-Edenton Corridor Alliance. We will raise another $50,000 with our partners including WakeMed. The corridor is very critical to the city of Raleigh so we would like the city in their budget to include us for $50,000 and we will raise the other $50,000.

For years and years we have not increased funding for our summer youth program. It is time for us to ante up. You can’t continue to fund the summer youth program at the speed that we’re funding it. Our youth is very important to the city of Raleigh. So I’m asking you to please fund the summer youth employment program…I would like to see you add another $100,000 to help employ more kids for the summer now.

– Octavia Rainey, chair, North Central CAC

Approximately 76 percent of the families that we serve are at or below the poverty level. They are faced all the time with some really, really tough decisions. Do I have money to pay for crucial services that my child needs, or do I have to pay for the food and the rent. So your long term support and your continued support for this crucial program will revitalize these lives. For every dollar spent for early intervention, we save $7. So we’re asking for your support for early intervention for $100,000.

– Holly Lemieux, Tammy Lyn Center for Developmental Disabilities

I’m here to request that the funding the city provides to help us do what we do continue. You gave us $50,000 last year for that purpose and I think that…the city got its money’s worth. If we don’t get city funding we’re requesting, the results will be obvious. A good many residents will go without legal assistance who ordinarily receive it and they will likely suffer adverse consequences because they don’t have the skills to represent themselves. More people will lose their shelter or not be able to obtain necessary healthcare. More victims of domestic violence will represent themselves in court and suffer the consequences to do so effectively. Although we are unlikely to assist everyone in the city that needs legal help we do make a big difference for many.

– Victor Boone, regional manager, Legal Aid for North Carolina, Triangle Region

We want to thank you for your continued financial support. We’re the business improvement for Hillsborough Street. This year alone, we’ve expanded our clean and safe program to full time five days a week, cleaning the sidewalks and providing security services throughout the community. We’ve got four existing – two underway and two in the pipeline – major redevelopment projects along the street that are estimated to be about $250 million worth of redevelopment. We’ve been able to capture the food and beverage sales tax that is paid by the entire district monthly to the county. That’s up 35 percent since that bid was created and construction was completed and we appreciate, as always your continued financial support for the organization. The $106,000 to clean the streets, maintain the lights and maintain the infrastructure.

– Jeff Murison, executive director, Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation

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