Some Cary residents might pay more for water in the coming year, but they won’t pay more in property taxes.
The Cary Town Council on Thursday unanimously approved a $209 million operating budget and $51 million for capital projects over the next fiscal year, which starts in July.
The spending plan keeps Cary’s property tax rate at 35 cents per $100 in assessed value. It includes a 3.5 percent increase in utility rates for residential customers who use more than 4,500 gallons of water or more per month.
The average residential customer will pay about $2 more per month in utility rates. The increase will help pay for a Cary/Apex water treatment facility. .
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Cary considered raising the utility rate 4.9 percent, but shifted course a few months ago upon receiving news that the treatment plant is coming in about 10 percent below budget – $30 million less than expected.
“This is a budget we can be proud of,” Councilwoman Gale Adcock said, pointing out that Cary's property tax rate remains the lowest in Wake County.
The spending plan is 3.7 percent bigger than last year’s budget, which town officials say reflects a slight upswing in the local economy.
It includes a 5 percent increase in building permit fees that will allow the town to hire a code enforcement specialist who is expected to help streamline the development inspections process.
In total, the budget allows the town to add 25.5 staff positions, bringing Cary’s workforce to 1,222 employees – about 8.2 per 1,000 Cary residents.
Karl Knapp, Cary’s budget director, also introduced a few last-minute amendments to the budget Thursday night, including:
• Reducing the proposed increase in the commercial and residential building demolition fees to $132 from $198 “to better reflect the staff time associated with demolitions,” according to a staff report.
• Appropriating an additional $200,000 to the town's website overhaul project, bringing the total cost to $505,000. The additional funds will be used to help fully integrate a new GIS mapping system into the website overhaul.
• Changing the session fee at Sk8-Cary to $5 for all park users, regardless of where people live, and moving the effective date of the fee change to July 1 from September 1.
The budget drew little feedback from residents and business owners.
Supporters of the town-run skate park were the most outspoken throughout the budget process, pleading en masse at public hearings for Cary to buy a 13-foot vert ramp.
Cary didn’t include a ramp in the budget because initial estimates showed the project would cost about $475,000, which is more than council members were willing to pay. But the council has asked town staff to find a cheaper way to execute the project sometime in the near future.
“I personally don’t just want to throw up a vert ramp to throw up a vert ramp,” Councilman Don Frantz said. “I think we could do some really neat and interesting things there.”
Frantz and Adcock were the only council members to disagree on the budget Thursday night.
Adcock said she was glad the town included $140,000 to expand C-Tran bus service by two hours but wished Cary would have also expanded the service to run on Sundays.
Frantz questioned both expansion measures, saying, “I think there should be a limit on how much transportation we provide to people.”
That said, Frantz estimated he’s “90 to 95 percent satisfied” with the budget.
The other council members were happy too. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht commended the budget office for making the budget process go smoothly.
“I’m very grateful,” he said.