Town leaders are poised to approve a budget that increases spending by $34 million and property tax rates by 2 cents.
The Cary Town Council made some final tweaks to the town manager’s proposed budget at a work session on June 16, and council members expect to vote on it at their regular meeting Thursday, June 25.
The $295 million budget includes about $78 million for capital projects, many of which address the town’s water and sewer capacity and roadwork. Last year’s budget, including operating funds and capital projects, was $261 million.
The 2-cent property tax rate increase would pay for debt associated with bonds sold that Cary voters approved in a bond referendum in 2012. Barring tax cuts in other Wake towns, which are unlikely, Cary’s property tax rate would remain the lowest in the county at 37 cents per $100 of value.
Ben Shivar, Cary’s town manager, initially proposed a budget with a 3-cent property tax increase. The additional cent was needed to generate enough revenue to compensate for $1.5 million that Cary expects to lose next year with the elimination of the privilege tax, he said.
Shivar amended his budget recommendation on June 11 to call for a 2-cent increase. He said the third cent wasn’t necessary because new data showed Cary could make up for all but $153,000 of the privilege tax losses with electricity sales tax revenues.
Shivar said he didn’t initially rely on a rise in electricity tax revenues because the N.C. General Assembly changed the formula in 2013 for how it’s distributed, and budget planners weren’t certain that the change would benefit Cary on an annual basis. The electricity tax revenue forecast didn’t become clear until after the third quarter of the current fiscal year, he said.
On June 16, the council opted to balance the budget by cutting $153,000 from about $821,000 in proposed spending that was slated to help the town prepare for requests by the private sector to install Internet fiber.
Google Fiber announced earlier this year that Cary is one of seven municipalities in the Triangle, including Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Garner and Morrisville, where the company plans to lay its fiber-optic cable and bring high-speed Internet.
Budget planners initially expected Google to seek permitting and begin construction at an “extremely fast pace,” according to a town report. But that hasn’t happened yet, said Mike Bajorek, Cary’s deputy town manager.
“A lot of installations haven’t started yet. (Customer service) calls haven’t started yet,” he told the council.
By withholding $153,000 that would help the town prepare for the Internet provider’s requests, “We’re hedging our bet on when they’re going to start this implementation,” Bajorek said.
The town could allocate the funding later in the year when it’s needed, Shivar pointed out.
Council members said they trusted town staff’s analysis.
“The rate at which Google Fiber and AT&T are moving forward is not as quick as town staff assumed it would be,” Councilwoman Lori Bush said.
She pointed out that $667,700 remains in the fiber preparations budget, and that the town will be ready to respond to providers’ requests.
So far, Cary residents have offered less feedback on the budget than they have in recent years.
The town received 52 comments during the month set aside for budget input, which was in October for the first time instead of February. Most who commented asked for expanded greenways, improved C-Tran bus service, roadwork or a new ramp at the Sk8-Cary skate park.
Comments this year were down from 87 last year and 116 the year before that.
“While we didn’t necessarily see an increase in participation moving it from February to October, we are planning to keep it in October since the feedback holds more weight when receiving it earlier in the budget formation process,” said Carrie Roman, a town spokeswoman.
If you go
The Cary Town Council is expected to vote on a proposed $295 million budget during its meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 25. Public comments will be accepted. Cary Town Hall is at 316 N. Academy St.