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Retreat focuses on capital plan
City Council meeting on priorities, funding
 
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:24 pm
by Herbert L. White

Mayor Anthony Foxx is calling a retreat for Charlotte City Council to discuss capital investment and property tax rates.

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PHOTO/DAVID BURNS, U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx (right) is calling City Council together to discuss capital spending and funding scenarios.


The closed-door meeting is Sept. 27 from 12-2 p.m. at the Westside Service Center at 4150 Wilkinson Blvd.


Foxx called the meeting to consider the 2013-2017 General Capital Investment Plan and the 2014 ad valorem property tax rate.


“As all of you know, the pressures driving us to consider a new capital program have not gone away,” Foxx wrote council in calling the meeting.  If anything, they will only intensify with time.  Our roads and bridges will not get better, our neighborhoods will not become safer, and our AAA bond rating will not be preserved without action.  Charlotte’s clock is ticking.  Together, we can do something about it.”


Foxx and the council have been at odds over capital spending this year. In June, council shot down a $926 million program proposed by City Manager Curt Walton – which surprised Foxx, who then vetoed a compromise that would’ve resulted in a 2.44 percent tax increase.


“Based on my discussions with each one of you, I see a glass half-full,” Foxx wrote council.  The opportunities for progress are real, and they are achievable. After all, between June 11 and June 25, every council member voted for and against a variation of the city manager’s proposal. In addition, the proposals of (council members Michael) Barnes and (Patsy) Kinsey include overlapping investments, overlapping cuts and clear points of departure.  Because we know on what we agree, I believe we’re ready to spend more time finding ways to jump over the remaining hurdles together.”


Foxx proposes council use “consensus” programs pushed by Barnes and Kinsey – six new police stations, neighborhood investments and transportation projects as the budget’s foundation.


The sticking points include public-private partnership funds for East Independence Boulevard, the Cross County Thread Trail, the UNC Charlotte Applied Innovation Corridor, affordable housing and the east-west streetcar. 


“Instead of ignoring these issues, these divergences are the best place to focus our collective energy,” Foxx wrote.


Finding common ground could prove tricky, especially if property taxes become an exclusive funding source for the budget’s most controversial item: the $119 million streetcar program.


“Trying to come up with a capital plan in the future that makes good sense for the city of Charlotte and the people that reside in it,” Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon said. “I think a lot of that will take a very candid discussion about how we see us getting there and from there hammering through any outstanding issues to get us in a place that the citizens of this city can be proud of.”


Council members will attend three budget workshops beginning at the retreat. At the end of the third session, council will decide whether to adjust the capital plan, recommend a bond referendum in 2013 and determine its length.


“While I believe the capital budget is an extremely important issue, let me be clear: I do not support raising taxes simply to raise taxes,” Foxx wrote.  “That’s why I vetoed a budget alternative earlier this summer and will do so again if it comes back in similar form.” 


Cannon said council agrees on the need for capital improvements, but spending priorities aren’t clear-cut, especially if the street car is included.


“I think the only common ground that is not on a level playing field is that which centers around one particular project, and that would be the streetcar,” he said. “I think beyond that, we all feel good about what I tried to have approved the last time – a capital plan that would’ve addressed public safety, neighborhood and business corridors improvements among a host of other things.”

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