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It will be months before Raleigh leaders unveil their proposed budget for the next fiscal year, but they’re already asking for public input on the spending plan.
The city council had a “pre-budget” hearing Tuesday night to solicit ideas and priorities, and they’re also hoping to spark discussion on an online forum at myraleighideas.com.
City Manager Russell Allen says his staff is working on initial revenue projections, and next year could see slight funding improvements. “We do see on the revenues side a little bit better growth than we’ve seen in previous year,” he said, estimating tax income could rise 1 to 1.5 percent this year.
That’s still small compared to the 3 to 4 percent increases Raleigh saw when the economy was strong, but it’s a lot better than the 0.5 percent annual increase during the height of the recession.
Allen said that could allow the city to restore jobs cut during the downturn and possibly offer employee raises. But don’t expect a dramatic increase in spending. “This is still a recovery mode,” he added.
Some residents are hoping the improvements will kickstart long-delayed projects such as the West Peace Street streetscape plan. Martin Stankus, a potter and former city planner, is helping the Downtown Living Advocates group lobby for funding in the budget.
Stankus points out that Peace Street is the main connector between Cameron Village, Glenwood South and downtown. With hundreds of apartments under construction around Cameron Village, the newcomers will need a pedestrian path to the city’s attractions.
“It’s a big safety concern in relation to the number of driveway cuts and the lack of continuous sidewalks,” Stankus said. “We really want to pump Peace Street up as a pedestrian/bike corridor.”
The $1.3 million streetscape project calls for a tree-lined street with new wider sidewalks, sheltered bus stops, fewer overhead power lines and fewer driveway entrances. The plans have been on the drawing board for years, but funding got pulled, Stankus said.
“We just don’t want this project to be forgotten,” he said. “It’s been sitting around for a long time.”
Peace Street improvements are among the unfunded projects on the city’s Capital Improvement Plan. That document prioritizes major spending for the next five years and will guide the budget planning, Allen said. It lists $129.9 million in projects slated for funding next year, including a $3.9 million widening of Buck Jones Road in Southwest Raleigh and numerous smaller efforts.
Allen said he’ll meet weekly with finance staff during the coming months to draft his proposal. “I try to finalize the budget by mid-April or so,” he said.
A public hearing to discuss the specifics is set for June 4.