The City Council held its first budget workshop late this afternoon and it included the release of more details about the proposed cuts in City Manager Russell Allen’s budget. Among the more interesting items included in the budget notes were:
- The cut backs at parks facilities include the closing of the Shelley Lake Boathouse, as my colleague Sarah Lindenfeld Hall reported last week. The boathouse is currently open Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and Sunday. Councilwoman Nancy McFarlane asked Parks and Recreation Director Diane Sauer about why the boathouse was closing all operations. (Most of the other cuts involved scaling back hours at all facilities during nonpeak hours.) Sauer said the boathouse’s facilities weren’t used much, the concession stand typically lost money and vandals frequently targeted the boathouse. Add paddle boat rentals and flavored icy drinks to the list of items not immune to the current recession.
- Cutting the arts funding from $4.50 per resident to $4 per resident would mean a 14 percent funding reduction for those receiving money under the program. Total funds would decrease from $1.71 million to $1.52 million.
- If the City Council decides to move forward later this year with construction of a series of remote operations facilities and a new public safety center downtown it will require a 1 cent property tax increase in fiscal year 2011 and 2 cent property tax increases in fiscal years 2013 and 2015. The combined cost of the two projects is a little more than $400 million. The City Council won’t make a decision about whether to move forward on these projects until the late summer or early fall, and Mayor Charles Meeker has already said the council is unlikely to green light a tax increase until the economy improves. The council doesn’t have to take any action on these projects as part of this budget discussion because no additional funding is being included in Allen’s budget proposal. Councilman Philip Isley, an arch opponent of moving forward on the public safety center, reiterated that point this afternoon. City Manager Allen responded by saying that before the council makes any decision about delaying the safety center and remote operations buildings it should tour the city’s existing facilities. Allen said city staff are operating in buildings that are meant to service a city with a population of 100,000, not one approaching 400,000 people as Raleigh is.