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Our Cary Budget

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It’s Budget Time

Wake County Commissioners just passed their budget, and the NC General Assembly just dropped a big budget document on all the members’ desks on Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

For a vote on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. That’s right. The very next day.

The good news is that, here in the Town of Cary, we have a participatory budget process. It allows lots of time for involvement from you, our citizens. Read More…

Budgets and Verts

It happens every year about this time, our annual budgeting exercise. Time to discuss our next Fiscal Year (FY2015) budget that begins on July 1, 2014 and ends June 30, 2015.

Unlike the federal government, municipalities must balance our budget and go through a process by which we get public input and balance that with our current and upcoming needs, improvements, operating costs and capital expenditures. You can see what you all told us by reading the public input report.

 

I wrote a bit about the process last year, if you would like to read more

Priorities

This year, Town staff has utilized a new process called “Priority Based Budgeting.” This is a system that we used to ensure that our resources align with the priorities that Council sets for the Town. The process starts by defining the goals, then drills down into those goals, identifies the programs and services associated with accomplishing those goals, evaluating the programs, a peer review and finally allocating costs based on those priorities. Council and staff reviewed and finalized the goals at our Council Retreat in January.

Our Council priorities are:

  • Attractive Well Planned and Livable Community
  • Economic Vitality and Development
  • Effective Transportation and Mobility
  • Quality Cultural Recreational and Leisure Opportunities
  • Reliable, Sustainable Infrastructure
  • Safe Community
Overview of the Budget

Here is a quick overview of the items in the budget.

  • No tax increase, and NO additional debt
  • – Limited revenue growth is projected in FY2015 due to the gains in taxable real estate (our main revenue source) being offset by losses in taxable public service property, personal property and vehicle. (More revenue growth is projected after FY2015)
  • – Remember, we paid a one –time $6M debt reduction payment in 2014, so there IS room for service expansion for FY2015.  (Meaning, if we NEED to borrow money, we COULD do so.)
  • – The General Fund Operating Budget is $137.3M – with is a 3.1% increase over FY2014
  • – The Utility Fund operating budget is $65M, a 4.8% increase over last year.
  • – The Capital Improvement budget at  $51.2M  (a 51% drop from last year)
  • – Utility rates will increase by 3.7% – a result of rate smoothing to pay for the Western Wake Water Treatment plan – $2.21 more per month for residents using 4,500 gallons of water.
  • – Construct over 5 miles of new water and sewer lines ($5.3 million)
  • – Additional 25.5 staff position – still keeping Cary at one of the LOWEST ratios of staff per 1,000 residents (8.2) among largest cities and towns in NC
  • – Improved public access to Town information is planned, through a website overhaul, public access to Geographical based data, and new workflow software that will allow council meeting videos to be indexed
  • Read More…

Technology at a crossroads

I love technology.  I do.

I’ve written about it before, it’s part of my twitter profile, and I see the value of technology to engage citizens, connect people and improve lives.  Technology can bridge the gap between communities and continents, it democratizes all voices, allowing citizens to participate on a level playing field, and improve access – closing the educational divide.

You use it, and you want it

budgetfeedback

Here in Cary we’ve seen our citizens use technology to engage with the Town:

– Citizens use the Town website to look up Town agendas, minutes and development activity and watch Council meetings on YouTube.

– Provide budget feedback via Twitter (24 tweets), post on Facebook (37 comments) and email (66 emails).  The number of  Tweets and Facebook posts combined (61) this year were more than ALL of the input we received for last year’s budget (59 comments.)

– We saw you create an online petition signed by 1275 residents to save the Cary High School Water Towercarywatertower

  •   – A biennial survey that shows 54.5% of our citizens own or plan to own a smartphone this year and the trend is that smart phone users outnumber basic phone users.
  • And on and on…  Read More…

Our Cary Budget

“Tell me what you want…. what you really really want… “

Ok, I’m not gonna break into a the Spice Girls’ song (although I now have that song in my head.)  But, it is the theme of this post.

I’ve said it before. Democracy is not a spectator sport. In order for me, your At-Large representative, to know what you want, you have to tell me. And I’m not talking about winning the lottery – but rather what you want the Town of Cary to do.

Sure, we ask for you opninion all the time – using tools like our biannual Survey, Public Speaks Out options at our Town Council Meetings, individual meetings and of course, we certainly ask you during election time. But we also look for your feedback on our Town Twitter feeds, ask for it through CaryTV and the YouTube channel, BUD, Facebook pages, and in our email. But sometimes, we are looking for your direct feedback about a particular issue or strategic plan – and that’s true now.

It’s budget season
From Town of Cary

From Town of Cary

Unlike the Federal Government – our Town budget MUST be balanced. This is a lengthy process – and generally starts many many months before it’s actually accepted by Council.

Our 2014 (yes, 2014) budget year identifies services and infrastructure projects to be undertaken by the Town from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. And we are currently at the end of the MONTH LONG comment period, which ends on February 28th.

It’s important we hear from you

This is absolutely the time for you to make yourself heard.   Read More…

Deep Dive into Aquastar

One of the truly innovative and cost-saving projects that I’ve been privileged to learn about since I joined Town Council is Aquastar.

Aquastar is the name we use in Cary to refer to the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system for our water. The Aquastar program replaces what WAS the monthly manual reads of your water meter, with a wireless system that collects multiple remote meter reads every day. The technology used is often referred to as part of a Smart Grid infrastructure. The vendor of the system, Sensus (in Raleigh), worked closely with the town to find the right solution, while Johnson Controls developed and managed the project.  (In what the Town Staff refers to as “The Cary Way.”  I like that!)

(Here is the video that the Town used to share the process with all of us.)

Read More…
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