More parks? Safer roads? In Cary, voters will decide this fall.

Town of Cary Bond Park photographed on July 15, 2019. The fall ballot in Cary, NC will include two questions on whether voters approve of $225 million in bond funding for transportation and parks and recreation projects across the town over the next decade.
Town of Cary Bond Park photographed on July 15, 2019. The fall ballot in Cary, NC will include two questions on whether voters approve of $225 million in bond funding for transportation and parks and recreation projects across the town over the next decade. tbrown@newsobserver.com

If you’ve been waiting on the town of Cary to develop new athletic fields for your kids and a dog park for your pets, or better roads and crossing signals for safer travel, you may not have to wait too much longer.

This fall, town residents will decide whether to approve the sale of $225 million in general obligation bonds. The first question on the Oct. 8 ballot will ask if voters support $113 million for transportation projects. The second will ask if they support $112 million for parks projects.

Cary currently has nine staffed facilities, six special facilities and four sports complexes.

The Trust for Public Land rates the 100 largest U.S. cities on how many parks they have and how accessible they are. In their 2019 report, they found only 43 percent of Cary residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park; that’s 10 percentage points less than the national average.

They also reported that only 8 percent of Cary’s town land is used for parks and recreation, half of the average large American city. The Trust suggested that new parks be built in northeastern Cary.

Doug McRainey, Cary’s director of Parks and Recreational Facilities, said in an email that the town plans on using the $112 million bond on Phase 2 of the Downtown Park in addition to the construction of two new neighborhood parks.

The new parks would be developed in west Cary, on McCrimmon Parkway and Carpenter Fire Station Road. Both would feature sports sites and walking trails, and the McCrimmon Parkway park would have a hanging bridge and community garden. The park on Carpenter Fire Station Road would have a dog park.

McRainey also mentioned funding for upgrading playgrounds, improving Cary’s skate park and renovating historic property, all of which would begin over the next decade.

Sarah Martin, the chair of Cary’s parks and recreation citizen advisory board, wrote in an email that she will be voting for the bond because the town has “determined that the projects that are being counted as part of this bond referendum are ones that will best serve our citizens both geographically and in building community within the overall Town framework. “

A News & Observer reporter asked a handful of residents at Cary’s Fred. G Bond park on Monday about the park bond referendum. They said they were unaware of it.

Jerry Jensen, the director of Transportation for Cary, said the transportation bond would help fund street maintenance, intersection improvements, new sidewalks, widening streets and new traffic signals that have pedestrian crossing signals.

Recent Bond Activity

The town is bringing these bonds to the ballot as it finishes selling the last bonds approved by the 2012 $80 million bond referendum. Those funds were approved to relocate a fire station, improve bike facilities among other transportation projects and improve parks and recreation projects.

On Tuesday, the last $16.05 million of those bonds was scheduled to be sold. Three bond rating firms recently confirmed Cary’s bonds as AAA rated, the highest rating of financial stability.

At 31 cents per $100 of assessed property value, Cary has the lowest property tax rate in Wake County, but the rate was raised by 4 cents from 2013 to 2015 to help pay for the 2012 bond referendum. For a home valued at $375,000 — the median value in Cary — that tax increase raised the yearly property tax by $150.

On June 3, Wake County also approved a property tax rate increase of 6.36 cents, to help pay for a 2018 $1.1 billion bond referendum.

That 6.36 cent tax rate increase will add an extra $239 per year in county tax to the median Cary homeowner’s property tax bill.

Trent Brown tbrown@newsobserver.com

Future Property Tax Increase

The town says that one extra penny added to the property tax rate will be enough to cover around $30 million in bond debt, however that is as far as town officials will go in estimating the future of Cary’s property tax.

“The amount and timing of tax increases remains to be determined,” said Karen Mills, chief financial officer, “however we are confident that future tax increases will be required to support operations, maintenance and capital projects to manage Cary’s transition from a growing community to a maturing community.”

Important Dates

July 18: A public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Council Chambers

Sept. 8: Absentee ballots available

Sept. 13: Last day to apply for registration for voting in referendum

Oct. 8: Referendum voting

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Trent Brown covers the Town of Cary and other odds and ends. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 and is a Collegiate Network fellow.