Wake County

Cary adopts leaner budget that keeps tax rate the lowest in Wake County

Cary police officers direct traffic at the 40th annual Lazy Daze arts and crafts festival in August 2016. The town’s new budget includes money to hire a police detective who will focus on opioid abuse.
Cary police officers direct traffic at the 40th annual Lazy Daze arts and crafts festival in August 2016. The town’s new budget includes money to hire a police detective who will focus on opioid abuse. N&O FILE PHOTO

Residents here will continue to pay the lowest property tax rate in Wake County under a newly adopted budget that signals a slow-down in Cary’s pace of growth.

The Cary Town Council on Thursday approved a $311 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It’s a drop of $8 million from the current budget.

Town leaders have said Cary must make more efficient use of its resources, particularly employees. Land is close to being fully built out, and new construction is expected to play a diminishing role in driving revenue.

Cary will spend about $242 million on operations in the coming year, up about 6.5 percent. Most of the increase will pay for new employees, including a police detective assigned to address opioid abuse and a planner to implement new transit projects under the Wake County Transit Plan.

The town will spend much less, however, on projects – $68.5 million, down from about $92 million. Projects include $100,000 for downtown facade improvements and $850,000 for the design of a new park near Cameron Pond Drive. Cary plans to spend $6.4 million to widen Reedy Creek Road between Maynard Road and Harrison Avenue.

The property tax rate will remain 35 cents per $100 in value, and the monthly waste collection fee will stay put at $16. Utility rates will rise 3 percent.

Last week’s move kicks off a new era of rolling budget discussions, which the town will conduct quarterly rather than once a year. This “corporate model” is designed to keep the budget flexible and allow for minor appropriations throughout the year, according to Town Manager Sean Stegall and Budget Director Karl Knapp.

“Over time, a process can feel bigger than the people involved and the people it’s intended to serve,” Stegall said Thursday. “But that’s never true. We can change any of our processes – we just have to ask the question.”

The budget vote came before a council chamber that had been packed earlier in the evening for a vote on a controversial rezoning for a Habitat for Humanity project. Far less controversy surrounded the budget proposal, which changed little between its May 11 unveiling and its unanimous adoption.

By the time the budget vote came up, around 10:20 p.m., the room was mostly empty.

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan

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