Charlotte City Council Adopts Budget with Tax Increase, Regulatory Fee Hikes

In a 7 – 4 vote this past Monday night, the Charlotte City Council adopted a budget for FY 2016 that includes both a property tax increase and hikes in regulatory fees for the development industry — although at lower levels than initially proposed.

The City is dealing with $21.7 million budget gap from the elimination of the Business Privilege License Tax and a reduced property tax digest resulting from the ongoing revaluation process. However, staff have said the regulatory fee increases were NOT intended to address the deficit, but rather to implement a 2005 Council policy requiring 100 percent recovery of all service costs through regulatory user fees.

The manager’s original budget proposal included substantial increases in fees for development permits, plan review, and major rezonings, with some more than doubling in cost. But after meeting with representatives from REBIC, NAIOP and other industry trade groups, Council agreed to reduce four of the most significant fees to a level that recaptures just 80 percent of service costs.

The regulatory fee increases come just a few short months after the release of an independent study by the Gartner Group showed the need for substantial improvements in how both the City and Mecklenburg County issue building and development permits. The study called for improvements in customer service, better interdepartmental coordination, and new investments in technology.

Here are the regulatory fees in the budget framework adopted by Council this week, with both the original and revised increases for each:

  • Major Commercial Subdivision Review & Inspection: The per project fee would have increased 116.8 percent, from $3,740 to $8,110 on July 1. Under the revised proposal, the fee would increase 73.5 percent, to $6,490. The additional $100 per-acre fee for this review would remain the same as today.
  • Major Residential Subdivision Review & Inspection: The per project fee would have increased 103.2 percent, from $4,200 to $8,535 on July 1. Under the revised proposal, the fee would increase 62.6 percent, to $6,830. The additional $100 per-acre fee for this review would remain the same as today.
  • CDOT’s Commercial Building/Driveway Permit/Site Plan Fee: The per project fee would have increased from a range of $100 – $300 to a flat $740, for an increase of 146 percent. Under the revised proposal, the fee would increase 96.7 percent, to a flat $590.
  • CDOT’s Rezoning Application Review Fee: Currently a flat, per project fee of $1,400, this would have increased 169.3 percent, to $3,770, for a major rezoning, while dropping by nearly half for a minor rezoning. Under the revised proposal, the fee would increase 115.4 percent, to $3,015.

But some other fees increases are remaining as originally proposed, most notably the fee for filing a Major Rezoning, which will increase to $5,000 beginning July 1. City staff has committed, however, to working with the development industry in the months ahead to achieve reductions in plan review time, and as well as customer service enhancements, in conjunction with the higher fees.

The budget adopted by Council also includes a lower, one-cent property tax increase than the manager’s proposed 1.76-cent increase. And starting July 1, the annual Solid Waste fee will be a flat $25 per household, representing a a $12 per home decrease for single-family, and a $1 per unit increase for apartments, condominiums and townhomes.

At Monday night’s meeting, Councilmembers Michael Barnes, Ed Driggs, Claire Fallon and Kenny Smith all cast ‘NO’ votes on the budget.

REBIC appreciates City Council and staff working with the development industry to moderate the proposed fee increases, and we look forward to continued dialogue with the City on improving the development plan review and rezoning processes.

The full details of the Manager’s proposed budget can be found on the City’s website.

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