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City Abandons Plan For Tax Hike, Infrastructure Projects

Charlotte residents will not see an increase in their property tax rate next year. The city council Monday night abandoned a proposed 8 percent tax hike and $926 million in infrastructure projects the taxes would have funded. It was a surprise move capping a tense two weeks that began with another surprise vote on June 11 when the council rejected the proposed city budget. Ever since it became clear two weeks ago that the full 8 percent tax hike couldn't get enough votes to pass, there's been much talk among city council members about "negotiation" and "compromise." But it ultimately came down to all or nothing. Seven of eleven council members voted to drop the infrastructure improvement package and the entire tax increase rather than do any nipping and tucking. Councilman David Howard made the suggestion. "We need to do what's good for the whole community," said Howard, after the meeting. "When we started taking pieces out of it we started playing politics to me. . . that's not the way you do planning. I'd rather take the time to do the plan to do it right so we can benefit this full community over the long term." No streetcar through Uptown. No bridges over I-85 in northeast Charlotte. No redevelopment of Bojangles Coliseum. No new police stations. None of the $926 million-worth of projects recommended by the mayor and city manager will happen next year. It was not the outcome Mayor Anthony Foxx hoped for, but he'd already vetoed the only other proposal that had enough votes to pass. That plan would have raised taxes by 2.4 cents per $100 of assessed value rather than the 3.6 cents in the mayor's preferred proposal. The smaller tax hike would have sacrificed the streetcar and a number of other projects Foxx thinks are essential to the city. He's hoping another year or two of deliberation will bring the council around to his view. "Some people were literally making their minds up as they were sitting across the dais," said Foxx. "That's just not a way to build a budget. So perhaps with a little more focus now that everybody's awake, we can spend some time working through the issues." The decision to scrap the tax hike was a welcome surprise to the council's two Republicans - Warren Cooksey and Andy Dulin. Weeks earlier they'd made a similar motion and it failed. Over the last few days, both had grudgingly agreed to support a 2.4 cent property tax increase because the county's corresponding tax cut would make it a wash for Charlotte residents. "I'm kinda stunned by it," said Cooksey after the meeting. "But I'm pleased the voters of Charlotte won't see a tax increase next year." The council did approve a $1.15 billion operating budget for the city, which includes pay raises for city employees and benefits for their same-sex partners.