As budget deadline looms, stalemate remains - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

As budget deadline looms, stalemate remains

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Charlotte City Council members met Monday for the first time publicly, since several lost their tempers last week during a budget vote. The council voted against the $1.97 billion budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

This week, council members are working on a new budget. Budget Committee Chairman Michael Barnes asked council members to make a list of projects their council could do without. He set a noon deadline Monday, June 18th. Barnes tells WBTV only three made the deadline.

"I think the council has unknowingly pushed this city to the brink of a shutdown and I don't think that is good for our citizens," said Mayor Anthony Foxx.

Republicans and Democrats have fought for months about tax increases. Two Republicans, Andy Dulin and Warren Cooksey, jumped to forfeit building and infrastructure plans. 

"I've been very hesitant to start messing in other districts," Cooksey said.

Council member LaWana Mayfield, represents an area where a lot of high-dollar projects were planned.  Still, last week, she said she'd try to meet Barnes' request to lose a few. Over the weekend, she changed her mind.

"There are very few projects in District 3 that are negotiable and I am not willing to shirk my responsibility to both District 3 and the city by not investing in an area that has invested in the city through their taxes for many years," Mayfield wrote in a statement. "I will not say, 'well this can wait.""

District One Rep Patsy Kinsey was another who said she'd try to come up with some project to cut by noon Monday. We asked what she came up with, and got no response.

But Kinsey has made it clear in the past that she won't agree to eliminate the city's plans for streetcar - a $119 million project Barnes says could go. 

"There's just not a lot of compromise I'm going to do on certain areas. Streetcar is non negotiable as far as I'm concerned. That's a part of our community that's been waiting for a long time," Mayfield said.

He presented a budget scenario which would cut those expensive streetcar plans, a trail, a road maintenance facility, and a list of public/private projects, among other things.  All in all, the scenario would shave $239 million from the city manager's recommendation.

But it would still raise taxes by 2.5 cents.  And Cooksey says he won't vote for anything over 2.44 cents.

So, we still have a stalemate.

A city tax hike of 2.44 cents could be the magic number, though, because that is the same amount that Mecklenburg County will lower its tax rate, meaning property owners in Charlotte would see no increase in their joint city-county tax bill.

But, it will be difficult to get down to 2.44 cents if more council members don't sacrifice projects.

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