Voters on Tuesday signaled their support for the city’s parks and recreation system, approving by a wide margin a $92 million bond measure for improvements and upgrades.
The favorable vote gives Raleigh permission to borrow that much money, debt that could bring with it a 4 percent property tax increase to cover the bill.
City staff say the parks package – the sixth approved since 1981 – focuses more than any previous effort on upgrades and renovations for existing parks.
“With the earlier bonds, we had significant growth in Raleigh. It was more about growth in the system,” said Diane Sauer, director of parks, recreation and cultural resources for Raleigh.
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“Over the last couple years, we thought – and then it was confirmed in our system-planning process – that we have a great parks system, but we need to take care of what we have.”
In the lead up to the vote, critics contended that Raleigh has come to rely too heavily on debt funding, and that the city government instead should spend within current limits.
The bond measure carries a potential tax hike of 1.72 cents per $100 valuation, or about $51 annually on a $300,000 home, according to the city.
At the top of the list of improvements is a $12.5 million overhaul of John Chavis Memorial Park.
The city’s proposed plan could open up the park’s vistas, potentially including a new aquatics center, skating spots and an amusement ride, among other changes meant to create a cohesive “wow.”
Next comes $12 million for the new Baileywick Community Center, $10 million for land purchases, $8 million for aquatics centers upgrades, $6 million to replace the Pullen Arts Center and $6 million for work at the Walnut Creek athletic center and wetlands park.
Voters OK Wake Forest bond
In Wake Forest, three bond measures totaling $25 million also passed easily, with at least 65 percent of the vote in each case.
Voters approved $6.3 million for streets and sidewalks, $14.2 million for parks and recreation and $4.6 million for greenways.
While some of the bond money will be spent on improvements, much of it is intended for new projects or expansions needed to keep pace with the town’s population growth.
Town Manager Mark Williams said staff will now begin scheduling projects and deciding how to sell off the bonds during the next seven years.
“It means we’re going to be very busy,” he said.
Town officials have said that in a worst-case scenario, the full bond package would increase the town’s property tax rate of 51 cents per $100 valuation by 2 cents. They’ve said a staggered timeline for the projects and continued revenue growth may head off the tax hike.
There was no vocal organized opposition to the referendum in Wake Forest.
The town’s big-ticket parks items include $11.1 million for the expansion of Joyner Park, including a new community center, and $3.1 million for the Northern Wake senior center expansion.