Proposed city budget includes fee hikes and increased spending on CMPD

Proposed city budget includes fee hikes and increased spending on CMPD
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Charlotte city manager Marcus Jones proposed a $2.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2022 that includes a small increase in fees for services like water and garbage.

The budget grows the city’s general fund by 4.4% to $750.7 million, according to Jones, who on Monday called the budget proposal “Resilience and Recovery Volume 2.” The proposed budget raises pay for some city employees and increases funding in a handful of areas, including police, arts, sidewalks and other infrastructure.

Why it matters: The latest budget proposal comes after the pandemic weighed on city tax revenue, and after the federal government juiced local economies with millions in stimulus money that cities and towns are still working out how to spend.

  • Last year, the city received $154.5 million in federal CARES Act funding. This went to cover a range of city operations (like a 5% pay increase for first responders from March-December) and community support (like $30.8 million in small business grants).
  • In the last year, the city didn’t have to lay anyone off or dip into reserves, Jones said, it preserved core services, and it didn’t use stimulus funds to balance the budgets.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest parts of the budget proposal, which Jones presented to city council on Monday. There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget May 10. The budget adoption is planned for June 14

1. Police spending: The proposal includes $300.9 million in funding for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, up 3.7%. This would mean police make up just over 40% of the city’s operating budget.

  • Most of the increase (3.3%), however, comes in the form of personnel costs such as retirements and other salary allowances, Jones said.
  • The budget does not add additional officers.

2. Taxes and fees: As part of the budget, taxes wouldn’t increase, but certain fees would:

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  • Solid waste: increases 61 cents a month.
  • Water bill: increases 3.4% for a typical residential user, to $2.33 a month.
  • Stormwater: Increases 3.4% for typical user, to 29 cents a month.

3. Referendum money: The budget includes money from the following bond referendums, passed by voters last year:

  • $50 million for sidewalks, 20% of which would be in suburban areas.
  • $50 million for affordable housing.

4. For the arts, Charlotte is proposing contributing $4 million in general funds, plus $2 million from its latest round of stimulus. Then, the private sector would match that $6 million, for a total of $12 million per year for three years, Jones said.

  • On Monday, Foundation For The Carolinas announced $7.2 million in commitments from Bank of America, Barings, Jeld-Wen, National Gypsum/C.D. Spangler Foundation and Trane Technologies. This goes toward its goal of raising $18 million for local arts organizations over three years.

5. Corridors: The city is adding $14 million for its “opportunity corridors.”Those funds will go toward development and neighborhood stabilization.

6. Pay raises: The city is proposing raising the floor for the lowest-paid full-time employees to $38,090, a roughly 14% increase in the minimum salary.

“If you work for the city you should be able to afford to live in the city,” Jones said. The move will impact about 150 employees who work in areas such as solid waste.

7. Communications center: Jones says the city is not moving forward with one significant project, the Joint Communications Center. As the Observer reported, the center would have housed a number of 911 services, Medic and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. Costs for the project ballooned to $106 million, per the Observer. The city has spent about $14.5 million on the project so far, Jones said.

  • Not moving forward with the center will free up capacity to spend more on fire department services and the Strategic Energy Action Plan (to work toward the city’s sustainability goals), plus to finish the Cross Charlotte Trail, Jones said.

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