City Manager Ruffin Hall can close the books on his first budget for the City of Raleigh.
In a 7 to 1 vote Monday, Councilors approved Hall’s proposed budget, along with about $363,000 in additional expenditures after only two public work sessions and a public hearing. The total budget comes in at $754.2 million, with the general operating fund making up $417.7 million of that. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
Councilor John Odom cast the lone vote against the budget.
A 1-cent property tax increase is expected to raise $5.1 million to fund resurfacing projects on city streets. This will bring the resurfacing budget up to $7.1 million. A voter-approved increase of 1.12 cents will be used to fund $75 million in transportation projects.
Residents with city garbage pickup should expect a monthly increase of $1 to fund cart and truck replacement and bring the department closer to being fully sustainable. A 4.4-percent increase in sewer rates will go to fund the replacement of the city’s aging water infrastructure.
The Fight Over Crossing Guards
One of the largest points of contention about the budget was the funding of crossing guards for 11 Wake County schools in the city limits. Councilors voted 5 to 3 to allocate about $73,600 dollars for the schools, which had previously requested guards, but did not meet the standards outlined by city policy to automatically get a crossing guard.
Councilors Russ Stephenson, Bonner Gaylord and Thomas Crowder voted against the funding, in part because it doesn’t include the remaining 27 schools.
Councilors in support of the funding said they should provide crossing guards to the schools that expressed a need, and continue to work with the school district and sheriff’s office on funding additional schools.
Gaylord said he didn’t feel the Council was being equitable by deviating from the city’s policy and only awarding guards to schools that asked for them.
“We’re basically leaving out all the folks that didn’t have that squeaky wheel,” he said.
Stephenson recommended having all of the schools reapply so funding could be provided to the 11 schools that need them the most. He said otherwise, it looks as though the Council is playing favorites.
“We’re not looking to play favorites,” said Councilor Wayne Maiorano by phone during the meeting. “We’re not looking to provide special treatment for anyone.”
The funding, he said, is going to the schools that have expressed a sincere need for a crossing guard, some of which are currently using their teachers to help kids cross streets.
The Law and Public Safety Committee will begin reviewing the city’s crossing guard evaluation policy at a future meeting.
Other Budget Highlights
- Councilors also approved an additional $50,000 for an economic development community study for the Oakwood/Tarboro area.
- The budget funds nine new police officers and two engine companies to staff a new North Raleigh fire department.
- $21.9 million is set aside to purchase more new vehicles and equipment.
- City employees will get an average 2.9 percent merit increase and retirement contributions have been increased from 2 percent to 3 percent.
- Councilors will receive a $1,000 salary increase. The five-year incremental increase was approved in 2012.