Charlotte is considering nearly $300 million of new spending on projects for the next fiscal year. City council members met Wednesday night to hear the proposals.
Capital projects are physical things like runways, city parks and desk chairs. Charlotte currently has $25 million of available funding for such projects, basically wiggle room for the 2015 budget.
Which means in order to pay for some or all of these requests, the city would likely have to raise taxes or fees or take on debt.
City Manager Ron Carlee stressed these are just proposals. That nothing is settled yet. But the list is long and expensive.
First up was Barry Gullet, director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department or CMUD. He stood in front of a series of power point slides that laid out a problem. The amount of water used by consumers is going down while the cost of maintaining the sewer lines and water mains, and all the pumps and plants is going up. When water use goes down so does the utility’s revenue. So CMUD is going to do something it hasn’t done in years, issue new bonds. "We haven’t issued any new debt since 2009," Gullet told the council, "And the time is coming in the next few months. We’re going to need to issue debt."
To the tune of $112 million, or more. That’s just part of the $600 million CMUD believes it will need over the next five years to keep the water flowing to your tap and toilet. Gullet and CMUD are asking the council to approve a rate hike.
It would take an increase of three to five percent each year for the next five years reach CMUD’s goals.
Of course, the utility wasn’t the only one pitching their projects.
Two of the largest requests were for Charlotte sports venues. More than $44 million to repair and renovate Time Warner Cable Arena. The request included in the council's agenda states the need to renovate and repair the nine year old facility but gives few details. It does state the changes would be “improvements associated with functionality and aesthetics of the prevailing quality of NBA arenas."
Changes to Bojangles Coliseum would cost even more - $51 million. The city is trying to turn the decades old structure into a venue for amateur sports. The money would go towards a new roof, a new scoreboard and sound system. And to remove asbestos from the property. This would be on top of the $425 million the city has already budgeted to renovate the area.
There are also requests to spend $60 million to build sidewalks and improve pedestrian safety. And $14 million to repair and replace bridges.
And proposals to spruce up Government center in uptown with $800,000 for new blinds, $1.2 million on new carpet and furniture and more than $20 million to reconfigure the layout of cubicles and offices in all floors occupied by city workers.