Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones has proposed a $2.6 billion budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1. It calls for pay increases of 6.5 percent for police and 3 percent for other city staff. He also wants to boost the size of a planned affordable housing bond referendum this fall to $50 million.
Jones presented his plan to City Council members Monday afternoon. It would require a 1 penny tax increase and includes slightly higher fees for water and garbage services. The tax increase equates to $25 a year for a home worth $250,000. It would be the first city tax increase since 2013.
Jones acknowledged that police hiring and recruitment are a problem — about 10 percent of CMPD's 1,900 positions are vacant. The 6.5 percent pay raise falls short of the 15 percent police have been demanding. Jones also proposes $2,000 bonuses for officers who move to Charlotte, better health benefits for retirees and giving a police cruiser to every officer within six years.
Under the changes, the starting salary for a Charlotte police recruit would rise from $43,492 to $46,352. Recruits also would get credit for having a college degree immediately, instead of waiting 9 months to complete their training. A starting officer with a four-year degree would make $50,987.
Firefighters would also get a raise — the second phase of a new pay plan that began last year. It includes a 1.5 percent market adjustment plus pay increases for steps on the department's pay ladder.
The $50 million bond referendum would go toward the city's Housing Trust Fund, which helps finance affordable housing. In the past, the bond has been $15 million, but Mayor Vi Lyles and others have pushed for more. Jones said the city has the capacity to increase the bond request this year, but it may not stay that high. He is proposing a $25 million bond referendum in 2020.
Jones told reporters the city needs help solving its shortage of affordable housing.
"That 50 million dollar bond … I'd ask you please don't look at it as just the city and just units," Jones said. "We're building great communities and we are not going to be able to do it alone."
He said the city is talking with Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other large companies — as well as the philanthropic organization Foundation for the Carolinas — about affordable housing fundraising and strategy.
Jones said staff began developing this year's budget with an intensive review of existing programs, contracts and agreements. Budget cuts and revised agreements resulted in about $14 million in savings, he said.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget in June.
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