City approves tax increase despite local reps’ concerns

Charlotte City Council approved the 2013-14 fiscal budget and 3.17-cent tax increase on Monday night, June 10, without the support of south Charlotte’s two district representatives.

Ballantyne-area representative Warren Cooksey and SouthPark-area representative Andy Dulin both voted against the budget and $816 million capital investment plan this week because they said Charlotte voters should have been allowed to decide on the tax increase through a public vote.Since the projects in the capital investment plan will require bonds – which must be approved by voters – Cooksey has argued for nearly a year that a tax increase to pay off the bonds should be approved by voters, as well.

“I think that this community as a whole deserves a larger say on a proposed tax increase,” Cooksey said prior to Monday’s vote. “If we cannot have the bulk of the capital investment plan in this budget without voter approval, I don’t think we should go forward with a tax hike without voter approval, as well.”

Dulin, who with Cooksey makes up the only two Republicans on council, agreed the tax increase should have been taken to a higher voting power.

“I would like to have seen the voters of our community have a greater say,” Dulin said. “This council has trusted in them before and could have trusted in them on this account.”

Councilman Michael Barnes said the tax increase could be retracted in years to come if voters don’t approve the capital investment project bonds. But that’s not what he expects to happen.

“I hope people will support the package,” Barnes said. “I think once people know what’s in the package, they will support it.”

Whether Charlotte would give up tax revenue in the future if the first round of bonds isn’t approved in 2014 would have to be decided by council. Elections this November could change the makeup of the board, and Mayor Anthony Foxx won’t return in December.

There’s been some heartburn from south Charlotte taxpayers about the capital investment plan, which will spend hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly in east, north and west Charlotte, to revitalize those parts of the city and draw in new business. This in theory would increase the amount of taxes coming out of those regions and take the pressure off south Charlotte, which makes up a large portion of the city’s tax base.

The plan doesn’t spend much money in south Charlotte, other than for the Cross-Charlotte greenway trail that will stretch across the city and into south Charlotte; an extension of Park South Drive; and for new police stations.

At least one of those projects is something those in favor of the plan said could be beneficial to south Charlotte businesses.

“There is, I think, a package here that benefits north, south, east and west Charlotte as well as Center City,” Barnes said. “The Cross-Charlotte Trail, for example, I think will have a very strong benefit to north Mecklenburg County and south Mecklenburg county as we provide the greenway amenities to people who need and want to use those types of amenities.”

Added Councilwoman Beth Pickering, the trail will be “transformational. That’s something that will be an attraction to … businesses that would consider moving to Charlotte.”

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