Council Approves, Reduces Carlee's Garbage 'Swap'
Charlotte's city council will not shift local taxes and fees toward businesses as much as City Manager Ron Carlee proposed. The council and city staff have spent the past two months debating how to fill a $22 million hole in the city’s budget. That hole comes mostly from lost business taxes, after lower property reappraisals and the loss of a business license tax.
City Manager Ron Carlee had proposed a “swap” that would increase property taxes, so businesses would pay more, but—by eliminating a trash fee—about 80 percent of homeowners wouldn’t.
“This is not about solid waste. It’s not about solid waste,” Mayor Dan Clodfelter told council members last week. “It’s about fixing a hole in the budget by the loss of business tax revenue. Bless his heart, the manager found a way to rebalance the tax system.”
Cutting the fee on homeowners but raising taxes on everyone’s property means more of the tax burden shifts to businesses. The proposal didn’t gain traction with the City Council, though. The Council’s two Republicans argued it was a redistribution, while Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes called it a shell game.
Others balked at making trash so intrinsically important to the budget, especially since—as Councilman John Autry argued—the current set-up has problems.
“We’ve got a laundry list,” Autry said last week.
Paying for trash with two fees from homeowners and apartments, plus using property taxes is unusual, Carlee has said. A consultant in 2012 recommended wholesale structural changes.
The Council will approve a final budget on June 8th, but needed to pass a balanced proposal at yesterday’s meeting. Councilwoman Vi Lyles said she did not want this budget to include an overhaul of trash services.
“I think the most important thing when I look at this budget is to make sure we have a sustainable plan for this year, until we can as a council say what’s going to be on the table for a thorough discussion going forward,” Lyles said.
So the Council approved, instead, a scaled-down version of Carlee’s plan for the upcoming year.
It lowers, but does not eliminate, the trash fee for homeowners and raises the apartment fee—both become $25.
Meanwhile, property taxes go up by about 1 cent, roughly half what Carlee proposed. The city reports about 70 percent of homeowners would still pay less fees and taxes, total.
It would also create a new $250 fee on about 2,100 small businesses that currently rely on the city for service. City staff say that’s the unsubsidized cost of providing the service, although those businesses would also pay the increased property tax—another source of trash funding.
Lyles argued it would allow the city to revisit trash again next year.
The adopted plan also includes scaling back fee increases on developers and funding more street repaving. It keeps a pay raise for city staff. Members discussed but didn’t agree to fund a new ladder company for the strained fire station in the Northlake Mall area.
The Council may still make changes to the budget at its next meeting on Monday, before the final vote in June.