CHARLOTTE -- Time is ticking for Charlotte City Council members to pass a budget after they rejected a proposed spending plan Monday night. By a 6-5 decision they voted against a nearly $2 billion budget that would have included an 8 percent property tax increase for Charlotte homeowners. Now the urgent work begins to find compromise and consensus.
That proposed property tax increase would have helped pay for nearly a billion dollars in capital projects including the extension of the streetcar that is set to roll on Elizabeth Avenue. But with the council saying no, projects like the streetcar and others could be cut to make for a smaller capital program and smaller tax increase.
"By this point, we should be getting to the finish line, not the starting gate," said Mayor Anthony Foxx.
A narrow majority on the council said "no" to a proposed 3.6 cent property tax increase that would have raised the property tax bill $72 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home. The new revenues would have helped pay for a $926 million capital program across the next decade.
Foxx called the vote "irresponsible" Monday and was still upset Tuesday.
"The real question is, what are people going to say yes to," he said.
The council's budget committee will meet Thursday and begin the process of creating a budget, tax rate and capital package that can get the needed six votes to pass.
Republican council member Warren Cooksey believes the capital projects' total price tag could be whittled down to create a tax rate increase of 2.44 cents that would be revenue neutral with Mecklenburg County's property tax decrease. To make that work the biggest target could be the $119 million proposed extension of the Charlotte streetcar that was proposed to be on a bond referendum this November.
"Where the streetcar comes into play is it is such a large item," said Cooksey. "If we can get council agreement on that particular project leaving the CIP, than we are much closer to the goal."
The Charlotte City Council is expected to vote on another budget proposal at their meeting on June 25. According to state law, the budget must be approved by June 30.
The Charlotte City Council last approved a property tax increase in 2006.