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Charlotte Area News

Council Seeks To Settle Streetcar Debate Monday

Budget debates don't typically get underway for the city of Charlotte until May – but the council has spent the last several months getting a head-start on deliberations.

Monday will be the last of three special sessions organized by Mayor Anthony Foxx to find consensus on a pet project - streetcar through Uptown Charlotte.

So far, the only way he's found to pay for it is by including it in a nearly $1 billion package of street, road and construction projects the city would pay for by raising property taxes.  Foxx couldn't get enough support to pass the plan last summer, so he's had the council meeting monthly through the fall.

At October's session, he made yet another plea for ideas on solutions to fund the streetcar and got nothing but awkward silence.

"These are the same crickets I was worried about six months ago," said Foxx. He's asked the council to come back from Thanksgiving ready to vote "yes" or "no" on the streetcar. 

Councilman Michael Barnes is one of the main holdouts. He's not opposed to the streetcar, but says it should not be paid for by property taxes alone. The council's special budget meetings have explored other funding options, such as an extra tax on businesses along the streetcar line, but Barnes says none have panned out.

"What we've been able to determine is there are small pools of money we may be able to cobble together, but problem is a number of beneficiaries along the extension line haven't stepped up to the plate," says Barnes.

Johnson C. Smith University and Johnson and Wales University are on the initial three mile stretch of proposed streetcar, along with CPCC and Presbyterian Hospital. 

Monday's 2 p.m. meeting at the government center is the city council's chance to settle the streetcar debate and move on to the rest of the capital improvement plan. While streetcar has proven the most controversial project, it's only  $110 million of a nearly $900 million package the council is considering.