It was standing room only during Tuesday’s evening City Council meeting, which featured among other items, a public hearing on the proposed budget.
The proposed $750.5 million budget includes a 1-cent property tax increase that would raise about $5.1 million to fund resurfacing projects on city streets. Voters approved an additional 1.12-cent increase last October to fund $75 million in transportation projects.
Residents should also expect a $1 increase in their solid waste services fees for truck and cart replacements.
While Councilors held a public hearing on Tuesday, many of the people in attendance were there for other issues on the agenda.
Read on for some of the budget comments, in some cases followed by our explanation. Full video of the hearing can be found on the city’s website.
Keith Wilder, president Raleigh Professional Firefighter Association
“As you know, we’ve been down here every year for quite a few years speaking during the public budget hearing and we always came in with a lot of optimism, left with a lot of optimism, but things didn’t always seem to go our way. I think Mr. Hall has made an excellent recommendation for the employee benefit package.”
City employees will see an average merit increase of about 3 percent. The budget also recommends increasing the city’s retirement contribution from 2 percent to 3 percent. Health insurance premiums will stay the same.
Kia Baker, Interfaith Food Shuttle
“We know that it’s very important that people eat. People who don’t eat don’t survive, people who don’t eat well, don’t thrive and so we just want to thank you for your support and thank you in advance for your continued support of our work to build a food secure community.”
Debra King, CASA
“Our waiting list in Wake County is 560 people. We’re trying to do more to scale up and develop more housing and we need your continued support.”
Sara Hansen, Tammy Lynn Center
“We are expecting to deliver over 1,115 hours of childcare for early childhood for children who are at risk or who have already been diagnosed with concerns. This funding is crucial for the intervention services to both the children and the family and receive it.”
Interfaith Food Shuttle, CASA and the Tammy Lynn Center were three of the human services organizations that were awarded funding by the city. The total human services appropriation comes out to about $1.26 million.
Interfaith Food Shuttle and the Tammy Lynn Center were awarded $100,000. CASA was awarded $89,000.
Vivian McCoy, Southeast Raleigh Assembly
“I would like to thank our new city manager. I think he’s hit the ground running and he’s doing a mighty fine job. We certainly, certainly appreciate him and all of the support you’ve given to SERA. We’ve been very good stewards of the money that you’ve given us and we continue to be and we hope that you continue to support us.”
“I have been following the city’s budget since 1976. I just think being fair in transportation is crucial … I hope that when you look at African Americans like me, who struggle to make ends meet that fare increase are not fair. If you are trying to go back to 1955 and get us off the bus with increased fares, you have succeeded.”
Capital Area Transit and Triangle Transit will be raising their rates this year and in 2016.
Karen Rindge, WakeUp Wake County
“We recognize that the city manager has proposed an increase for to make sure our roads get repaved and taken care of. And while nobody likes a tax increase, we’re going to get hit with reductions because of business license fee decrease and other things. WakeUp does support this increase in property taxes to pave the roads.”
State leaders cut the privilege license tax last week, which could mean a $7 million loss for the city.
In a couple of cases residents took the open mic as an opportunity to voice their opinion on issues that weren’t necessarily related to the budget.
Elizabeth Gardner, Falls Whitewater Park
“I was thrilled to be a part of the committee for the system plan that was presented … and very happy to see that the white water park was included in the system plan. I know that it did not make the initial cut for the bond, but we’re here to say that it’s important to us. We really think that this is going to be a great thing for Raleigh.”
A large part of the meeting’s crowd was made up of people supporting the Falls White Water Park, which was not included in the proposed park bond. Parks staff will present more information about the possible inclusion of the park at the next Council meeting.
“Please stand down on the Dix issue. We have too many sick dying in the woods and in prison they’re being beaten. This is not what what we’re about. This is not honorable. This not godly.”
The budget includes $470,820 to cover the cost of the original Dix lease, leftover from the current budget. The proposed budget doesn’t include any other funding for the acquisition or development of the park. Mental health advocates have asked the city to use the property to support programs that benefit people with mental illness.