South Charlotte’s role in budget talks hazy

This map shows where planned projects were in the capital improvement plan. This year’s budget discussions are starting from the same list of projects, including the controversial streetcar extension.

City again looking at once-failed tax increase

 

Charlotte City Council is back at the negotiation table as members try to piece back together a capital improvement plan and tax increase that’s already been voted down once.

And while south Charlotte doesn’t have much to negotiate with in the talks, since almost all of the planned $926 million in projects is focused on other parts of the city, the area’s representative on council is trying to let voters decide if they want to foot the bill for the multiple projects.

Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton proposed a list of projects last year he and Mayor Anthony Foxx said were vital in revitalizing parts of Charlotte. The 8.26 percent tax increase, or an increase of 3.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value, would pay for road and bridge projects, new police division headquarters and sidewalk additions, among other things. But the big ticket items, and what eventually held up the tax increase from approval, were additions such as at least $25 million for redevelopment around Bojangles’ Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium, and nearly $120 million for a few miles of the streetcar project that not enough council members could rally behind for approval.

The $926 million worth of projects would only pay for two police headquarters, an extension of Park South Drive near SouthPark Mall and a portion of the Cross Charlotte Multi-Use Trail in south Charlotte. The other projects are in the north, east and west.

Council members voted down the increase at their June 11 budget meeting, opting to take up the matter again this budget season when more time can be spent discussing the issue. Talks officially started again at a recent city budget retreat, where council members were supposed to be focusing on parts of the plan they all agreed on, but instead spent most of their time talking about the controversial streetcar project.

Warren Cooksey, the Ballantyne-area representative on city council, doesn’t have any local projects he’ll try to get added to the capital improvement list as of now – though he notes it’s been a while since south Charlotte received cash from the city for any named projects. Cooksey was instrumental in the push to vote down the tax increase in June, saying he didn’t feel it was right to raise taxes right after many people saw a tax increase by way of the property tax revaluation. Now, as talks resume, Cooksey is shifting his focus to letting voters decide on the tax increase, not council members.

Cooksey will push council in future budget discussions to add the tax increase to the 2013 ballot so voters can decide come November. Council would just have to decide on the size and scope of the tax increase then let voters approve it or not just as they would a general obligation bond.

If council was to agree on adding the tax increase to the ballot, they would still have to decide which project would be included in the capital improvements, but they could vote on a separate operations budget in June. The city must pass a new operations budget before July each year in order to pay for day-to-day operations, and there was some concern this summer that the capital improvements plan was going to put making the budget deadline in jeopardy prior to council voting to push the plan to next year.

Cooksey said the recent announced retirement of Walton, the city manager, likely won’t affect the capital improvement plan Walton proposed earlier this year. With the city already starting back budget talks using this summer’s plan, it’s unlikely council members will start over from scratch and recreate a capital improvement plan before June.

Here’s what the $926 million would have paid for:
• Airport/West Corridor (Total: $43 million)
• Spine Dixie-Berryhill Infrastructure – $30 million
• Southern Dixie-Berryhill Infrastructure – $13 million

• East/Southeast Corridor (Total: $92 million)
• Land acquisition, street connections – $25 million
• Monroe Road streetscape – $10 million
• Bojangles/Ovens area redevelopment – $25 million
• Public/private redevelopment options – $20 million
• Idlewild Road/Monroe Road intersection – $4 million
• Sidewalk and bikeway improvements – $8 million

• Northeast Corridor (Total: $170 million)
• Research Drive – $15 million
• University Pointe Connection – $14.5 million
• Northeast Corridor Infrastructure – $102.5 million
• Applied Innovation Corridor – $28 million
• UNCC Informatics and Innovation – $10 million

• Road/Infrastructure Projects (Total: $24.9 million)
• Prosperity Church Road NW Arc – $5 million
• Eastern Circumferential/railroad bridge – $11.6 million
• Park South Drive extension – $8.3 million

• Cross Charlotte Multi-Use Trail – $35 million

• Streetcar extension – $119 million

• Sidewalks and pedestrian safety – $60 million

• Traffic control and bridges – $48 million

• Upgrade traffic signal system – $34 million

• Repair and replace bridges – $14 million

• Public Safety Facilities (Total: $124.5 million)
• Joint communications center – $64 million
• Six police division stations – $56.5 million
• Land for future fire stations – $4 million

• Maintenance facilities – $30 million

• Affordable housing – $60 million

• Comprehensive Neighborhood Improvement Program (Total: $120 million)
• Prosperity – $30 million
• Whitehall – $30 million
• West Trade/Rozelles Ferry – $20 million
• Central – $20 million
• Sunset – $20 million

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