Editor’s Clarification: While there were no additional property tax increases associated with the budget, residents should expect to see a slight tax increase associated with the passage of the October 2011 transportation and affordable housing bond. The 0.91 percent increase will fund affordable housing projects and sidewalk, transit and street resurfacing projects.
In a 7-to-1 vote Monday, Raleigh City Councilors approved to a $681 million operating and capital budget for next year. Councilor John Odom voted against the spending plan.
The adopted budget is about a 3 percent more than the current year’s $660.8 million budget.
About $383.6 million is allocated for the General Fund operating budget, with the capital budget taking up the remainder.
Employees looking to go back to school will continue to see a $1,250 petition reimbursement. The proposed budget included decreasing that amount to $1,000, but councilors approved keeping the reimbursement the same.
City staff member will get a $1,000 merit raise, but will also see a 4 percent increase in dependent healthcare premiums.
City councilors will also get their raise, but rather than seeing a $5,000 increase immediately, the raise will be spread out during a five-year period with a $1,000 increase each year.
“I generally feel like we should be doing this for the love of the city, not the money,” said Councilor Bonner Gaylord, adding that the increase will begin to put salaries on par with other municipalities.
While the budget doesn’t include any property tax increases, it does include a $1 increase for solid waste service fees. These fees for garbage and yard waste pickup will generate about $1.4 million to support the department. Solid Waste Services, which is an enterprise fund, continues to be subsidized by the general fund as it moves toward full cost recovery.
Increasing the fees allows $1.4 million to be used on deferred maintenance for – in no particular order – the fire departments, Roberts Park Community Center, Optimist Park and Eastgate Park. City Manager Russell Allen said he will return to the council once he has prioritized those items.
Other spending changes approved by council, includes $50,000 for the summer youth program, $125,000 for Lineberry Park and $150,000 for the Carolina Ballet.
The council also approved $150,000 to fund a transit technology study that would look at multi-modal streets in Raleigh to identify the appropriate plan for each area. About $100,000 was allocated for a senior transit planner, which would include salary and benefits. The council will continue to talk about the scope of the study and the position during a summer work session.
To continue the small business initiative, $50,000 was allocated for staff support and Allen and city staff will have 30 days to figure out how that money would best be spent.