Morrisville council wants to spend more for transportation

aramos@newsobserver.comJune 7, 2013 

— The town’s proposed $26.4 million budget may be balanced, but Town Council members say they want to set aside more money for transportation and the Chamber of Commerce.

About $130,000 is at stake. Councilman Michael Schlink said the town could take the money from funds allocated for merit pay for town employees.

That idea didn’t gain much traction during the May 28 council meeting, though, and town staff are looking for other ways to pay for transportation and chamber initiatives.

The council is expected to talk more about the budget on Tuesday.

Transportation funding has become a top priority in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The draft budget includes a 2.35-cent property-tax hike. Two cents of the increase is set to help pay for design work for the N.C. 54 bypass project, part of a streets bond that voters approved last year.

The remaining .35 cents will go to toward continued road maintenance and street repairs.

But council members asked for more money for transportation after they saw that $120,000 in matching funds for the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Locally Administered Projects Program was left out of the proposed budget.

“Top of the list is transit and transportation,” said Mayor Jackie Holcombe. “We need to find a way to fund the match. I don’t think the money will magically appear. ... Unless we actively put aside those funds, they are not going to be there.”

A smaller funding request – one that would add about $10,000 to the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce’s annual contract – proved to be much more controversial.

The council appeared split as to whether it should increase the chamber’s annual allocation for economic development to $44,000. The town and the chamber are rethinking their contract that outlines how the chamber handles economic development for Morrisville.

Earlier this year, the town gave the chamber a one-time $20,000 boost for marketing funds to develop a new economic-development website, attend site-selection conferences and hire a part-time communications worker.

Councilman Steve Diehl said he doesn’t want to give the chamber more money because he doesn’t think the group supports non-commercial development.

“The purpose of this money is to support economic development for the town,” Diehl said. “The chamber is great for bringing in corporations. I ran on the promise to put emphasis on residential development. We are looking for quality of life here, not just big corporations like Charlotte has.”

Councilman Steve Rao was among four council members who appeared to support more funding for the chamber.

“I do believe that the chamber has done (well) with what we give them,” Rao said. “We’ve seen the website improve ... and increase in development activity.”

Rao said some other towns, such as Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs, spend more for such initiatives.

Ramos: 919-460-2609

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