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Charlotte Area

No Budget Consensus Yet For Charlotte Council

The Charlotte City Council is still unable to agree on a budget or property tax increase for next year. Nine of the city's eleven council members met for two hours Thursday afternoon to discuss alternatives to the 8 percent property tax increase which unexpectedly failed in a 6 to 5 vote Monday night. They found no consensus, but several council members are interested in limiting the tax rate hike to 2.44 cents for every $100 in assessed value. That's the exact amount Mecklenburg County cut its tax rate. "So in other words, we would wash it," noted Councilwoman Claire Fallon. "People wouldn't pay any more and they wouldn't pay any less. It would be even. So you wouldn't be taxing the taxpayer again." Fallon was one of the six council members who voted to defeat the $926 million infrastructure package for roads, sidewalks and bridges in struggling neighborhoods. Getting to her figure would mean eliminating more than $250 million from the original plan. Councilman Michael Barnes voted against the original plan because he opposes building a streetcar across Uptown. The task of finding an alternative budget that can get enough support now falls to him as chairman of the council's budget committee. On Thursday, Barnes proposed several alternatives that would eliminate - or delay - the streetcar and cut funding for a number of proposed projects in his own northeast Charlotte district. "I'm willing to make sacrifices if it'll get the budget done," said Barnes. "I'm determined not to have the city shut down, and so I've gotta figure out how to make sure - with respect to this vote, making sure that doesn't happen." To avoid a government shutdown, the council must adopt a budget by June 30. None of the budget alternatives Barnes proposed Thursday got enough support to move forward. Council members agreed to identify projects they are willing to sacrifice by Monday, so city staff can determine how that might lower the proposed tax rate. The full council is not scheduled to meet again on the budget until June 25.