Cary, NC — It happens every year about this time, our annual budgeting exercise. Time to discuss our next Fiscal Year (FY2015) budget that begins on July 1, 2014 and ends June 30, 2015.
Unlike the federal government, municipalities must balance our budget and go through a process by which we get public input and balance that with our current and upcoming needs, improvements, operating costs and capital expenditures. You can see what you all told us by reading the public input report.
From Town of Cary
I wrote a bit about the process last year, if you would like to read more.
This year, Town staff has utilized a new process called “Priority Based Budgeting.” This is asystem that we used to ensure that our resources align with the priorities that Council sets for the Town. The process starts by defining the goals, then drills down into those goals, identifies the programs and services associated with accomplishing those goals, evaluating the programs, a peer review and finally allocating costs based on those priorities. Council and staff reviewed and finalized the goals at our Council Retreat in January.
Our Council priorities are:
- Attractive Well Planned and Livable Community
- Economic Vitality and Development
- Effective Transportation and Mobility
- Quality Cultural Recreational and Leisure Opportunities
- Reliable, Sustainable Infrastructure
- Safe Community
Overview of the Budget
Here is a quick overview of the items in the budget.
- No tax increase, and NO additional debt
- Limited revenue growth is projected in FY2015 due to the gains in taxable real estate (our main revenue source) being offset by losses in taxable public service property, personal property and vehicle. (More revenue growth is projected after FY2015)
- Remember, we paid a one –time $6M debt reduction payment in 2014, so there IS room for service expansion for FY2015. (Meaning, if we NEED to borrow money, we COULD do so.)
- The General Fund Operating Budget is $137.3M – with is a 3.1% increase over FY2014
- The Utility Fund operating budget is $65M, a 4.8% increase over last year.
- The Capital Improvement budget at $51.2M (a 51% drop from last year)
- Utility rates will increase by 3.7% – a result of rate smoothing to pay for the Western Wake Water Treatment plan – $2.21 more per month for residents using 4,500 gallons of water.
- Construct over 5 miles of new water and sewer lines ($5.3 million)
- Additional 25.5 staff position – still keeping Cary at one of the LOWEST ratios of staff per 1,000 residents (8.2) among largest cities and towns in NC
- Improved public access to Town information is planned, through a website overhaul, public access to Geographical based data, and new workflow software that will allow council meeting videos to be indexed
The budget document is huge, but broken up into readable components. (But it is still 350 pages!) Here are some highlights that I think folks might be interested in, based on feedback I’ve received.
- Improve the visual appeal of city streets by adding landscaping to existing medians ($150,000) – supported by all of council, and will take about 4 years (with annual funding of $150K) to get to all of the bare medians across town
- Facilitate business development in downtown by creating a small business incentive loan program($120,000)
- Spot improvement in the level of service for Town intersections and streets ($250,000)
- Extending C-Tran evening hours from 8pm-10pm ($139,620)
- Increasing size of buses on two C-Tran high traffic routes ($28,823)
- Improving programming for participants with disabilities ($18,110)
- Adding 6 police officers in northwest Cary ($575,940)
- Adding covered tennis courts at Cary Tennis Park, (part of interlocal agreement, Wake County providing $1M of $4M), renovating existing courts ($300K)
- Build of trail head parking lot on White Oak Greenway ($185K)
- Connection of 2 existing section of Morrisville Parkway on either side of NC540 ($6M, half funded by CAMPO)
- Additional water storage tank in western Cary to ensure adequate water storage ($2M)
- Acquire land for new fire station in Southwest Cary ($800K)
- Resurface over 25 miles of Town streets ($5M)
There are many more details that you can find in the final budget, online.
What’s not there? A Vert
You will see that there are several items that council has not moved forward on – one of those, passionately supported by a number of citizens, and that is a Vert Ramp for SK8 Cary.
Photo by Dylan Brown
So, what’s a “vert?” A Vert ramp has a component that includes a vertical wall in the design – and is used in the higher end of skateboarding and BMX biking. The idea is that this more difficult, and probably more exciting ramp, allows riders to be able to “catch air,” and is certainly targeted for the higher skilled riders.
A number of citizens requested Council look at expanding the capability of SK8 Cary to include a Vert. They presented a strong case for this expansion; Cary’s commitment to amateur sports, the fact that many kids don’t opt for more “traditional sports,” and also providing information that points out that there isn’t another Vert in the state – offering a unique opportunity for Cary to shine and attract enthusiasts from all over.
Staff was asked to investigate the costs, opportunities and potential liabilities associated with this type of ramp. Initially we received information that this ramp would cost somewhere near $150,000 -and I have to say and I was supportive of this price point and the idea. But in our recent worksession, staff updated council that the cost of the Vert along with other associated needs was closer to $475,000. And at that price point, it’s a more difficult sell. That cost and some of the challenges we would have with parking, made it difficult for council to move forward to add this to the budget this year.
In our budget work session, I suggested, and others agreed that staff should continue to investigate this, and specifically look at other cities that have Verts and see if there are any other innovative ways to fund it – such as a potential public/private partnership. I also sent a note to Staff with a link to a public ramp that was funded in this way in Colorado Springs. Hopefully we can find a way to make this happen in Cary.
We have a number of opportunities for you to still speak up regarding the budget
You can comment on the Manager’s Recommended Budget during our Council meetings at 6:30 p.m. on June 12, 2014 in the Council Chambers at Town Hall. Or, as always, feel free to email or call.