Mayor: Cary is strong but faces challenges

aspecht@newsobserver.comJanuary 24, 2014 

In his State of the Town address on Friday, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said town staff members are being stretched thin to keep up with services.

PAUL A. SPECHT — aspecht@newsobserver.com

  • By the numbers

    Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht peppered his speech with stats and facts about the town:

    17 million: Cary spent $17 million less than expected this past fiscal year.

    171: Cary is the 171st largest municipality in the nation.

    3: Cary is the third-largest “town” in the nation.

    60: Cary spans 60 square miles.

    22: At least 22 percent of Cary’s population is age 65 or older.

    19: At least 19 percent of Cary’s population was born in another country.

    4.7 percent: Cary’s unemployment rate.

— The town has grown safer and more prosperous in the last year, but it faces budget and development challenges in the year ahead, according to Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht.

Weinbrecht delivered the State of the Town address to a couple hundred business leaders at Prestonwood Country Club on Friday.

Weinbrecht mentioned the high points of 2013: Cary claimed the title of the safest mid-sized city in the country. Insurance giant MetLife announced plans to bring 1,200 well-paying jobs to town.

But the mayor spent more of his 30-minute speech focused on the efficiency of Town Hall.

The town has the lowest property tax rate in Wake County, and it provides the highest quality of living around, Weinbrecht said.

He noted that the town came in $17 million under budget for the fiscal year that ended last June.

And he pointed out that Cary has maintained a high level of efficiency despite having about eight employees for every 1,000 people, the town’s lowest ratio in years.

Weinbrecht said it’s admirable that town staff is doing more with less. But things likely can’t continue at such a rate without affecting performance, he said.

“We have significant challenges to face in 2014, starting with our operating budget,” he said. “In the last five years, the town has grown by about 20,000 people, and our operating budget has not kept up.

“This means your staff members are doing more work, and they’re reaching a critical point where we might be impacting levels of service,” he said. “At the same time, we continue to get more and more requests for services.”

Developers are pitching more high-density projects, mostly apartments. To some, that’s a stark contrast from the large single-family homes that cropped up for years in Cary.

“Single-family housing is very rare,” Weinbrecht said. “What we’re getting a lot of is multi-family projects.”

The influx of different types of development leaves tough decisions for the Town Council, he said. Only 10 percent of Cary remains undeveloped.

Weinbrecht concluded by saying the town is “strong,” and that the council plans to continue working to revitalize the downtown, where it’s investing millions in public-private partnerships such as The Cary theater, The Jones House cafe and the Mayton Inn.

“It’s very important that we keep that momentum going,” Weinbrecht said.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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