Roanoke Budget Plan Keeps Taxes Steady

April 19--Roanoke's proposed 2011-12 budget includes no tax increases and sustains a number of services that had been under consideration for cuts.

The $258.7 million proposal -- presented Monday to the city council -- includes a $600,000 increase in the subsidy for the Greater Roanoke Transit Co., which will allow it to continue "peak service" for its Valley Metro buses when runs are doubled from every hour to every half-hour during busy commuting times in the morning and afternoon.

The budget also keeps the city's brush and bulk program intact in its current form and includes level funding for the nonprofit Total Action Against Poverty and Blue Ridge Behavioral Health groups.

The budget proposal does include a new parking rate for downtown residents who use city lots or garages. Initially, the city offered two free parking spots for each housing unit. That was then changed to one free spot and the opportunity to pay the normal monthly rate for a second.

Now, city officials have proposed a new residential rate that equals one-fourth of the standard monthly rate.

For example, a resident using the Gainsboro garage, where the rate is $35 a month, will pay $11.25 monthly for a spot. Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend said the city will no longer offer free parking spots with downtown housing units and there will be no grandfathering for residents who already live downtown.

Roanoke will offer information sessions about the new parking rate at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 159 on the bottom floor of the Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building.

Minus a 2-cent-per-dollar increase in the meals tax, which expires next summer, the city's budget is at a level somewhere between fiscal 2007 and 2008, said Finance Director Ann Shawver. City Manager Chris Morrill said he expects it will be three to five years before revenues fully recover from the recession.

The council has scheduled a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. April 28 at the municipal building.

A final vote is scheduled for May 9. ___

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Copyright (c) 2011, The Roanoke Times, Va.

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