Several much needed but high-cost projects, including a new fire station and a downtown development project, can move forward in July if the interim town manager’s budget is adopted.
Interim Town Manager Mike Bajorek is recommending lowering the property tax rate to 35 cents per $100 valuation, from 37 cents because of Wake County’s recent property revaluation. If approved by Town Council, the tax rate is expected to remain the lowest in Wake County and result in a tax bill of $750 for a $200,000 home.
The $319.2 million budget for fiscal year 2016-17 allocates $227.8 million for operations and $91.4 million for capital improvements and seeks to relieve stress associated with growth on town operations and facilities.
Cary now serves about 156,000 residents and anticipates serving a potential 193,000 people by 2040.
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“If we are to continue being one of the most livable cities in America, we cannot be satisfied with merely maintaining what we have,” Bajorek said. “Even moderate growth within the town will begin to strain the capacity of our facilities to serve our citizens.”
For the next fiscal year, the town is budgeting $7.15 million to construct a new Fire Station 9 in the Walnut Street and U.S. 1 area. It is estimated to cost $7.9 million, including design and construction; $750,000 already has been allocated to the project.
The Walnut Street fire station would replace the station at 875 SE Maynard Road, which has structural damage. It would help the Cary Fire Department meet current and future service demands, particularly with projected redevelopment in the Crossroads area.
In late April, the Town Council directed staff to use $5 million from fund balance, or cash on hand, to pay for the town’s contribution to a downtown public-private partnership.
Northwoods Associates LLC is proposing a $46 million plan to build retail and office space, apartments and a parking deck near the southeast corner of West Chatham Street and South Harrison Avenue. The town’s $5 million commitment would be for construction of the parking deck, stormwater facilities, surface parking and access roads.
This plan has yet to be approved by the council but would need to be before construction could begin and the town’s contribution would be required.
The budget also would fund the $4 million completion of all segments of the White Oak Creek Greenway, which will run from Bond Park to the American Tobacco Trail, and an expansion to the Cary Police Department’s evidence room, costing $2.2 million.
In addition, the budget allocates funds for intersection improvements, athletic field fencing and lighting replacements, greenway and park renovations and more.
But Bajorek said it is not possible to address all of the Cary Town Council’s priorities, particularly the more expensive projects, with available capital resources.
“If we decided to only use current funding sources, almost 75 percent of the capital funding over the next five years would go toward just maintaining our existing facilities,” he said.
The budget also includes recommendations for additional sources of funding, including installment purchases, using cash on hand and another bond referendum that would be on the November 2018 ballot.
A future bond referendum could potentially help fund the construction of the $17.5 million Mills Park Community Center; the $9.2 million Fire Station 10 near 2531 O’Kelly Chapel Road; and the $6.2 million widening of Chapel Hill Road from North Academy Street to Reedy Creek Road, according to Bajorek’s recommended capital investments plan.
Town staff said it’s possible for the town to fund these projects without incurring additional debt but it would take much longer to save enough money to do so to avoid skipping the maintenance of current facilities.
“Cary is reaching the point where we’ve built a lot of exceptional facilities for our citizens over the last 20 years, and we need to keep them at that level that our citizens have come to expect,” said Karl Knapp, the town’s budget director. “It takes money every year to keep those facilities in good condition. To do a big-ticket item like a fire station would require not doing a lot of that maintenance.”
The Town Council is not tied to funding the projects on the capital improvement plan beyond fiscal year 2016-17 if the draft budget is approved.
Bajorek said the Town Council will need to weigh the need for additional projects; timing considerations, including taking advantage of low interest rates; and funds available.
The Town Council will meet to discuss the budget at a 6 p.m. work session on Tuesday, May 24. The first public hearing will be at the Town Council’s 6:30 p.m. regular meeting on Thursday, May 26.
“A budget is all about priorities and what does council see as the community’s priorities and so that’s what is great about having these next budget work sessions is council will really be able to have that conversation among themselves,” Bajorek said.
▪ The recommended budget adds 25 new positions, including three new police officers, two emergency communications officers, a planner, a development liaison, a new recycle crew and a new yard waste crew.
▪ Chatham County property will not be revalued until next year, so property owners will experience a reduction in taxes for fiscal year 2016-17 but likely will see an increase the next year.
▪ The combined monthly garbage, recycling and yard waste fee would remain unchanged at $16 per month; Cary utility customers would see a 3.8 percent increase in water and sewer rates, or about $2.85 more per month for residents using 5,000 gallons of water.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon
These projects would be funded in 2016-17:
▪ Downtown public-private partnership with Northwoods Associates LLC - $5 million
▪ Fire Station 9 (Walnut Street) - $7.9 million
▪ Cary Police Department evidence room expansion - $2.2 million
▪ USA Baseball National Training Facility improvements, including constructing a clubhouse - $6.45 million
These are planned through 2021:
▪ Fire Station 10 (O’Kelly Chapel Road) - $9.2 million
▪ Mills Park Community Center - $17.5 million
▪ Reedy Creek Road widening from Northeast Maynard Road to North Harrison Avenue - $9.75 million
▪ Chapel Hill Road widening from North Academy Street to Reedy Creek Road - $6.2 million
Town of Cary