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Charlotte Area

Charlotte Budget Recommendation: Modest Tax Increases, Pay Raise

Ben Bradford

Charlotte city manager Ron Carlee gave taxpayers a preliminary glimpse Monday night into how the city will spend their money, and how much they will pay. Carlee presented to city council his recommendation for next year’s budget, which runs from July through next June.

Carlee recommended modest tax changes, including a 3 percent raise to the water and sewer tax and the stormwater tax.

“There is no recommended increase in the property tax,” he explained. “There is a $1.73 a-month increase proposed for water and sewer fees to maintain services, and a 24 cent-per-month increase in stormwater."

Those amounts are for an average household.

Overall, Carlee has recommended the city increase its spending to $2.1 billion, 6.5 percent more than last year. Part of the increase comes from an escalation in the city’s capital improvement plan, which includes the Blue Line extension and the streetcar.

New expenditures include a 3 percent increase to city payroll, to be distributed on merit. Carlee says the city will have the money for the extra spending, even without raising its main sources of revenue—property and sales tax—because, as the economy continues to improve, revenue increases.

Carlee said he had not considered a tax cut.

“What I’ve not heard from the council is a desire to reduce services or a desire to play our employees less than other employers pay,” he said. “If we wanted to do a tax cut, we would simply do less.”

Not all city employees are thrilled with the pay raises. About two dozen utilities and sanitation workers attended the presentation in uniform. Larry Mackey, a utilities worker and vice president of the local chapter of the Public Service Workers Union, says at the lowest pay levels, those workers are at or near minimum wage.

“A [tier] two person might bring home $320,” he said. “A [tier] one person, you’re talking from $290” for a 40 hour workweek, Mackey said.

The next step for the budget is a public hearing on May 12. Mackey says he will attend, to ask council to include a larger raise in the final budget.