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Will Cary residents pay more for taxes and fees in the year ahead?

Cary, which has seen much growth over the years, will likely not raise the property-tax rate.
Cary, which has seen much growth over the years, will likely not raise the property-tax rate. N&O file photo

In the year ahead, Cary's town manager wants to hire 12 firefighters, complete the railroad underpass on Carpenter Fire Station Road and buy land to widen that road.

Sean Stegall also wants to make drainage improvements, spend more money downtown and renovate two community centers.

The good news: The increased spending — more than $36 million in all — won't require an increase in Cary's property-tax rate of 35 cents per $100 valuation.

The bad news: Cary residents can expect to pay more for water, sewer and trash collection. Also, the town's vehicle tax — currently $15 — could double to $30.

Stegall expects the $15 increase in the vehicle tax to yield $1.95 million. He plans to use that money to design a sidewalk along Louis Stephens Drive and to help maintain Cary's streets.

Money for street maintenance would climb to $7.1 million in the fiscal year ahead before falling off to an estimated $5.1 million annually through 2023.

"We are making progress in this area," Stegall's budget document said of street maintenance, "but are still not meeting staff's full funding requests. This is a structural budget issue that will need to be rectified in the next couple of years."

The $1 increase in the sanitation fee — to $17 from $16 — would help maintain what the budget calls Cary's "robust and well-loved recycling program."

"Where once the town received revenues for our recycled materials, we are now paying to dispose of them, and we expect this cost to increase," the budget noted.

Cary is raising water and sewer rates 3 percent annually to avoid rate spikes that could take customers by surprise.

"Cary's utility rates are competitive, and we are committed to providing the highest quality, safest drinking water and utility services while keeping the financial impacts to our customers in mind." the budget document says.

For the year ahead, the town manager proposes to increase overall spending by 11 percent, from $310.6 million to $347 million. He can do that without a tax increase because of continued growth in Cary’s tax base.

Since 2010, the town’s tax base has grown from $20.3 billion to an estimated $26.4 billion, an increase of 30 percent. The budget document doubts that pace can continue, mostly because Cary is running out of land to develop.

"Growth has been the predominant feature of our past, but our future will look different," the budget says.

"The amount of land available for large-scale residential and commercial projects is now far more limited. Within Cary's planning jurisdiction, approximately 14 percent of the land remains developable."

The pressure then is on Cary to find new ways to grow, the budget says. "The town will need to identify new development opportunities that can assist in generating revenues to maintain Cary's quality of life and seek every opportunity to minimize cost," the budget says.

The 12 firefighters included in the budget would come on board next January to staff a ladder truck in western Cary.

The budget calls for average merit-based raises of 4.5 percent.

The Cary Town Council will hold budget work sessions May 10, June 7 and, if needed, June 14. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 14 at Town Hall.

Scott Bolejack: 919-829-4629, @ScottBolejack
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