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Council kills property tax increase and, with it, $926M in capital spending

In a decision that “disgusted” Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, the City Council Monday rejected an 8 percent property tax increase and the $926 million spending plan tied to it.

In a 6-5 vote, council members decided to leave the property tax rate alone and, in doing so, took almost $1 billion dollars from the city’s capital investment plan.

Foxx was furious, calling the vote “perhaps the most irresponsible decision in council history.”

“We have managed the city well over a number of years and, right now, looking well into the future, we can’t tell our (constituents) how we’re going to manage our infrastructure,” he said.

The opponents of the tax hike: council members Michael Barnes, Patrick Cannon, Warren Cooksey, Andy Dulin, Claire Fallon and Beth Pickering.

Those who voted against the increase said it seemed ill-timed when many Charlotte residents are struggling financially.

“After much soul-searching, I’ve decided I’m not able to raise taxes at this time,” Pickering said. “I just think it’s a terrible time, and I’ve looked at the totality at what our citizens are facing currently.”

Cannon, who’s also mayor pro tem, said he didn’t want to impose “a greater hardship on the least of those who can afford such an increase on top of other city and county fees.”

The $926 million taken from the capital investment plan was set to address housing and neighborhood development, transportation –including the Charlotte streetcar project — and other economic development projects. Council members who were in support of the property tax increase pointed to what they said is a need for neighborhood revitalization.

“When you look at this budget, it’s not just for one side of Charlotte; it’s for the entire community,” Councilman James Mitchell said. “I will be supporting this budget because I believe we’ll sit four years from now, in 2014 or 2016, (and) be proud of the city we made.”

Council members voted to send the budget through a committee, where it will be scrutinized before returning to the council for a June 25 vote. The deadline for the council to approve a budget is June 30.

While the council snubbed their noses at the property tax increase, they OK’d giving $8 million to the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team to build a stadium in Uptown. The team wants to relocate from York County in South Carolina.

GUION can be reached at payton.guion@mecktimes.com.

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