City residents may be asked to raise their taxes for the second time in less than a year.
Raleigh City Council members on Tuesday said they want to consider placing a bond referendum on the October ballot to raise money for road projects such as paving and widening.
It’s unclear which roads would benefit, how much money the city would need to raise or how much property taxes would increase. Council members said they want to work on details at their April 5 work session.
The referendum would come less than a year after Wake County voters approved a referendum to raise the sales tax rate by a half-cent to expand bus and train options throughout the county.
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Raleigh and Wake County have raised property tax rates four times in the last two years, costing the average Raleigh homeowner an extra $180 in 2015 and another $130 on top of that last year.
Some council members on Tuesday seemed interested in an October referendum. A recent city survey showed traffic and road conditions are top concerns for Raleigh residents.
“I’m in favor of putting the bond out to a vote,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.
“This is a very complicated issue that deserves more conversation,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kay Crowder.
While the countywide referendum approved by voters last year focuses on public transit, the goal of the city’s referendum would be to improve the conditions of city roads.
McFarlane said she’s not worried about residents getting confused over the Wake transit referendum and a potential Raleigh transportation referendum.
“We have done bonds over the years, and I think the public understands the needs of a growing community,” she said. “The number one complaint of citizens is traffic. A lot of this is road-widening and addressing congestion.”
Some council members – David Cox, Bonner Gaylord and Mary-Ann Baldwin – said they want to wait and see which specific projects are targeted before supporting a plan for a referendum.
“I don’t, as a rule, like raising taxes without a compelling reason for doing so,” Cox said.
A list of potential projects isn’t available yet, said Eric Lamb, transportation planning manager.
But the city would likely start by funding six holdover projects from the 2013 bond, which raised $75 million. Raleigh needs at least $83 million to complete projects on Old Wake Forest, Tryon, Rock Quarry, Poole, Blue Ridge and Six Forks roads.
The city also started a project on Yonkers Road that it needs $7 million to finish.
Raleigh has the debt capacity to spend $120 million on projects by borrowing money without raising taxes, Lamb said. The city could raise up to $250 million by borrowing money and raising the property tax rate.
The city can raise about $75 million by raising the property tax rate by 1 cent, said City Manager Ruffin Hall.
2015: Wake County commissioners raised the property tax rate by 3.65 cents per $100 in value to fund school construction.
The Raleigh City Council raised the city property tax rate by 1.72 cents to pay for parks.
2016: Wake raised the property tax rate by the equivalent of 1.35 cents to help schools and also to help county agencies serve residents with mental health and substance abuse issues.
Raleigh raised the property tax rate by the equivalent of 2 cents to help pay for Dix Park and more affordable-housing units.
Wake residents voted in November to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to help pay for a plan to add commuter rail and increase bus service.
2018: Wake commissioners are expected to put a bond referendum on the ballot for school construction that would potentially raise the countywide property tax rate by 4.25 cents per $100 valuation, which would mean an extra $115 per year for the average Wake homeowner.
Staff writers Paul A. Specht and T. Keung Hui