Raleigh discusses cuts for next year's budget

RALEIGH Monday leaders met to begin working on next year's budget. It's one of several meetings and several things are already apparent.

Leaders don't want to raise taxes, they don't want to lay off workers but they do want customers to shell out about $5 extra a month for water.

As the city cuts back on its spending, several projects will be postponed.

Plans to put overhead power lines on Peace Street underground will be put off. The estimated cost of that project was $5 million.

On Leesville Road, Raleigh's newest fire station, number 29, will not be built on schedule. That price tag -- $6 million.

"We're gonna delay that station," Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen said in Monday's meeting.

Those kinds of decisions are ones Raleigh leaders started working on at their meeting.

Sales tax revenues are expected to be flat for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Revenue from building and permit fees is down 60 percent, meaning the City is looking at an 18 to 22 million dollar shortfall.

"Next year will be more painful than this year," Allen said.

Some programs will be scaled back, many streets will not be repaved, almost all open jobs will remain vacant, salaries could be frozen and benefits packages may be reduced.

But there is good news with respect to city workers.

"We believe we can avoid layoffs -- somebody in a job that will actually lose their job," Allen said.

And as far as taxes go, Mayor Charles Meeker reminded everyone of what the City has done in the past.

"It's long been Raleigh's policy, when we have a recession or other hard economic time, that's the time we do not raise taxes," Meeker said.

So, the trimming will come where it can. And for now, it will come in the form of projects and not people.

And as for the water rates, city leaders want to hike them 17 percent beginning next month. For the average customer, that is about $5 a month.

Next year's budget will be presented formally in May.

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