City gets shot at budget amendments next week

Charlotte City Council members will get a chance next week to suggest any further amendments to a controversial capital investment plan that’s been in the works for more than a year.

The plan, as it was presented Monday, May 6, would pay for $816.4 million worth of projects with a 3.17-cent tax increase and four bond votes over the next seven years. This proposal is a change from last year’s proposed plan, that bogged down in negotiations and debate, in that it doesn’t include $119 million to extend the Uptown streetcar project. Last year’s capital investment plan called for $926 million in spending and a 3.6-cent tax increase.

“As you hear about this budget … what you’re going to hear is about how we build the future of our city,” Mayor Anthony Foxx said Monday night of the importance in passing some form of capital investment plan. Foxx was a vocal proponent of the plan last summer, expressing anger and concern when council opted to spend another year debating the package instead of approving the pro-streetcar plan last June. Now on his way out of Charlotte after being nominated by President Obama as secretary of transportation, Foxx is adamant city council come together to pass a plan.

“This budget will make investments in parts of our city that need to see revitalization, such as the Independence Boulevard corridor,” Foxx said, saying money needs to be targeted to specific areas instead of spread thin around the city. “In order to raise the quality of life but also to grow revenue in the city, we’re going to have to reinvent part of our city. Parts of our city that have been challenged are going to have to get stronger.”

That goal caused some frustration among south Charlotte residents last year who complained the plan would spend much more money in east, north and west Charlotte and not as much in south Charlotte – a region providing a large chunk of the city’s tax revenue.

The capital investment plan includes a handful of south Charlotte projects – $60.9 million for six new police stations (two of which would be in south Charlotte), $25.6 million for road and infrastructure improvements that would include extending Park South Drive near SouthPark and $35 million for a multi-use trail that would reach into south Charlotte.

Foxx and other proponents of the capital investment plan have said more projects aren’t being recommended for south Charlotte because south Charlotte doesn’t need to be revitalized like other areas of the city do. If parts of east, north and west Charlotte improve to the point that more businesses come to the area, that could take the tax burden off south Charlotte.

The streetcar project, which split council members last year, is still in the works. But it won’t be included in the capital investment plan unless council members recommend adding it at a budget adjustment meeting Wednesday, May 15, and then vote to officially add it to the budget at a May 29 straw vote meeting. Though it wasn’t in the plan presented Monday, council members still spent time debating the issue and Councilman Andy Dulin, who represents the SouthPark area, said he expects it to continue to be a divisive issue as discussions continue.

Councilman Warren Cooksey, who represents Ballantyne, said last year he did not have any projects he was interested in adding to the capital investment plan. Cooksey did not speak about his thoughts on the proposed plan at Monday’s meeting.

Council is scheduled to vote on the final budget proposal and capital plan June 10.

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