Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh gets early look at budget

The city will face unpleasant budget choices for a fourth straight year as the economy slowly improves, City Manager Russell Allen said Monday in a preview of his upcoming spending plan.

The budget does not include a call for a property tax increase, Allen said. However, Raleigh residents were already scheduled to see their annual tax bills go up because of bonds approved by voters on the October ballot.

The bonds, which involve transportation and affordable housing initiatives, will mean an annual increase of $17.11 on a residential property valued at $188,139, the median-priced assessment for Raleigh homes.

These figures were made public last year as part of the bond requests.

Allen did not rule out proposing an increase to solid waste fees in his budget plan, slated to be presented to the City Council on May 15. A public hearing is June 5.

The council must approve a budget by July 1, according to state law.

The recent spike in gas prices prompted city budget-writers to project at least a $1.2 million increase in the fuel budget. Raleigh spends more than $6 million per year to gas up its fleet.

“We may have to bump this number up a little more,” Allen said, noting the volatile fuel market.

Allen did not give details on how the city’s 3,200 employees would fare in the budget. Last year, employees received one-time $500 bonuses instead of costlier pay raises.

The city has a long tradition of avoiding layoffs, and Allen said this year would be no different.

After three years of recession-induced delays, Allen said the city can no longer put off buying at least some new vehicles and equipment.

“This has to be somewhat of a catch-up year,” he said.

Maintenance and refurbishment work is also planned at downtown’s Memorial Auditorium, which hasn’t gotten significant upgrades since the late 1990s.

The Raleigh-Wake County emergency call center needs at least seven new positions, Allen said. The city is weighing plans for a new 911 center off Raleigh Boulevard near the Beltline, but Allen said the current facility needs reinforcements to keep pace with the call volume.