Raleigh City Council OKs FY23 budget with tax rate increase

The Raleigh City Council approved new maps Tuesday for this year's city elections.

The Raleigh City Council approved new maps Tuesday for this year’s city elections.

City of Raleigh

Raleigh residents can expect a higher tax bill.

The Raleigh City Council approved the city’s $1.1 billion budget Monday afternoon.

It includes a 5% increase in the property tax rate to raise police and firefighter pay. But it doesn’t go as far as some wanted.

“We have significantly increased police and fire pay,” Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said. “We know we have more work, and we will do that over a two-year period. That’s our commitment. This was a good beginning, and when you look at what we have done collectively — it is a lot.”

The General Fund budget, which pays the city’s operating expenses, is $590.4 million, an 8.5% increase over this fiscal year..

The budget includes a 2-cent tax-rate increase, from 37.3 cents to 39.3 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The owner of a $337,000 home, the average in Wake County, will pay about $68 more on their city property tax bill.

The budget, approved 6-2, goes into effect July 1.

I think this budget moves the city forward and is a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for our community, so it is very important that we approved it,” Council member David Knight said.

The Wake County commissioners approved their $1.7 billion budget, with a nearly 2-cent property tax rate increase, last week.

Police and fire raises

City employees will get a 2% cost of living increase that started in April, and an additional 3% to 5% merit-based raise.

The budget also includes additional raises to bring public safety employees to the Wake County median, plus 6%. In all, 106 police, 133 fire and seven emergency communication employees will see raises.

Police and fire department employees have rallied twice outside City Council meetings for a 10% raise for all employees.

“Both the staffing levels of the Raleigh Police Department and the crime rate of Raleigh [are] now at a dangerous tipping point,” said Matthew Cooper, president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, during an April protest. “A point where, if action is not taken, there will be dangerous consequences.”

Council members Patrick Buffkin and David Cox voted against the budget.

Buffkin pushed for an additional half-cent tax rate increase to give police and firefighters even more money. The motion failed 2-6 with only Buffkin and Knight in favor.

Cox said there was excessive spending in the budget, including for the new city hall government complex and a community engagement bus. The budget didn’t do enough for public safety workers, he said.

In its vote, the council agreed to put any reserves from the current budget toward retention bonuses for employees and to ensure “police officer pay is increased during the next fiscal year so that employees receive a minimum 10% increase over the two-year period. ”

What’s in the budget?

The budget has a 1.5% increase in water and sewer rates, a 2.5% increase in the monthly stormwater charge and a 25-cent monthly increase in the solid waste services charge.

Other items include:

  • 26 new positions, including in the fire, parks, transportation and water departments
  • $7.8 million for affordable housing, street resurfacing and parks maintenance
  • An Increase in the hourly wage for temporary employees from $8.25 to $11.
  • $135,000 for an artist/innovator in residence program
  • $350,000 for the “community engagement mobile bus” that will travel to neighborhoods that have “been traditionally under served.”
  • More money for City Council members. The mayor’s pay will increase from $25,792 to $36,511 or a nearly 42% hike. Council members’ pay will increase from $18,933 to $29,848, a nearly 58% jump. The increases will be implemented in December after the new council takes office, according to a city news release.

People can read the full budget at raleighnc.gov/budget-and-management-services.

Public hearing comments

The Raleigh City Council held a public hearing on the budget last week.

More than 30 people spoke, most as part of a group called Refund Raleigh that demanded a $22 an hour minimum wage for city workers, with that money coming from the police department’s budget. City employees who work a standard 40-hour week currently make a minimum annual salary of $36,052 or about $18 an hour.

The group, which seeks to “end police violence and all forms of exploitation,” also demanded a mental health and crisis response with no police.

Many speakers pointed to people who had been shot and killed by police.

In the council’s budget work session Monday, Knight called the comments “inaccurate and inappropriate.”

“They were inappropriate, they were egregious and they were over the line and I apologize to our public safety workers and first responders for not speaking out at that time,” Knight said.

Ajamu Dillahunt, a leader in Refund Raleigh, said the group is calling on city investment in economic justice and not “police violence.”

“Our demand for $22 an hour and a mental health crisis response team is not something we are advocating for because we think it sounds cool,” he said. “Our demands are rooted in action items that have been proven to lead to public safety. Our demands are backed by a deep understanding of the community’s needs and rigorous research.”

Some of the speakers were solid waste services employees like Brian Moriarty, who said he has to live in Rocky Mount because he can’t buy a house in Raleigh.

I love my job,” he said. “But I got to look at taking a job in Rocky Mount. I really don’t want to do that. Y’all got real great people, the smartest, kindest, most-hardworking people in that department. I’ve been driving trucks for 10 years. This is the lowest I’ve ever gotten paid including when I started 11 years ago now.”

This story was originally published June 13, 2022 5:58 PM.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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