Lori Bush: Should I Vote for the Cary Bonds?

From the blog of Lori Bush, Cary Town Council At-Large member.

Cary, NC – We are all being bombarded by political ads.  It’s the season for it, for sure.  But there are a number of other measures on the ballot that also require our attention.  One of those, is the Cary Bond referendum.  (I should probably say “referendums” since there are 3 on the ballot.)

Why the bond?

My job on the Town Council is to serve you, our citizens.  This is a task of which I am immensely honored and privileged.  And part of that task is to ensure that you have the services you need to work, live, play, learn and grow in the community that you call home.

During the economic downturn, the Town’s general fund revenues declined, and in 2008, Town Council made some tough decisions to do what we all did at home; re-prioritize our capital projects, canceling $24 million in projects, reallocating resources, and delaying many other projects.

We are now at a point that some of those projects need to be reconsidered if we are to continue to support the high quality of life that Cary citizens have come to expect.  And, sometimes, just like in our own lives, we need additional capital to enhance our community.  Whether it’s maintenance or new coat of paint on the house, updating a room, or improving our backyard, these projects cost money.  The same thing is true in our town.

  1. We have a need to update Fire Station #2, it’s overcrowded, outdated, and has significant structural repair needs, and is serving a large area.
  2. Maintenance on our roads has been pushed out during the economic slowdown, many streets need resurfacing and improvements. Other projects such as the Walnut Street projects and the Downtown streetscape will enhance the community, while other improvements for intersections in West Cary (Carpenter Firestation and Morrisville Carpenter, as well as Green Level West) will help those areas.
  3. Parks and Recreation have become a big part of Cary’s identity.  A Downtown Park, Carpenter Park, updates to Mills Park and Bartley Park (Penney Road Park) will provide additional amenities across the town.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

In order to pay for these initiatives, we need to come to you, Cary Citizens, to ask you for your approval. There are 3 ballot questions put before you – totally $80 million. If all 3 are approved, our tax rate will increase from the lowest in Wake County (at $0.33) to $.0.37 (with 2 cents in 2013 and 2 cents in 2015.)

If approved, Cary would still have the lowest property tax rate of any municipality in Wake County.

As part of the initiative to educate our citizens about the Bond, the Town of Cary has created several tools to provide you the information you need to make a decision.

A Cary Bonds Website: with the list and details about the projects included in the Bond referendum, the financial impact, and information on what is on your ballot.

A Video: An overview of the bonds with with information about the bond and the Town’s current status. (Click HERE to see the video.)

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions – found on the Cary Bonds Website, with more financial information for your use.

How Much?

That’s really the question we all want to know.  If I vote for it, how much is it gonna cost me?

If all 3 bonds are approved, the property tax rate will increase 2 cents in 2013, and 2 cents again, in 2015.

That means that if you have a home that is worth $250,000, your property tax bill will increase $50/year for the increase in July 2013, and $50/year for the increase in 2015.

Just so you know, Cary has not raised property tax rates since 1989.

If I vote against it, what will happen?

The Town does not currently have the funds for these proposed projects.  So, if you decide to vote against it, it is highly unlikely that any of these projects will move forward in the next 3 to 5 years.

This is a vote on whether the Town can use a general obligation bond for financing these projects, it’s not a vote on the property tax rate, although it impacts that rate.

Why the Blog Post?

I’ve received a number of emails and FaceBook posts regarding this issue, so I wanted to address some of the comments publicly.  Please feel free to contact me with any comments, questions or concerns.  This is YOUR decision.  Be informed and tell us what you want.  You choose.

Featured photo from CaryBond.org website

21 replies
  1. Sarah Redpath
    Sarah Redpath says:

    Thanks for the blog post and comments. This has been an interesting and informative contribution regarding the bond vote.

  2. Anthony Bruno
    Anthony Bruno says:

    In case you were unaware Mayor Weinbrecht has a website to keep residents informed on what is going on in our town http://haroldweinbrecht.com/

    The site has a ‘soapbox’ for the mayor to give his point of view on issues & matters of concern.

    In the most recent edition, listed below, the mayor is critical of a resident as well as a reporter of our local newspaper for writing an opinion of the town’s use of a video to promote the referendum on three bonds and a tax increase.

    The mayor believes such criticism is unfair, especially the belief the town should not pay for video with our tax money, an amount close to $200,000, which he neglected to mention in his soapbox.

    The point of the criticism, one which the mayor neglected to mention; why should tax money be used to promote any referendum? After all, opponents do not have the ability to use tax money to counter the desires of our town council.

    Perhaps the mayor should provide opponents of this bonds sale/tax increase an equal amount to create a video (or ad campaign) to counter his promotional video. Wouldn’t this be the fairest way for citizens to learn both sides?

    And, to further suggest a reporter should not print a story borders on censorship!

    I am sure the mayor believes the bonds sale/tax increase should be supported. But, there are some valid reasons Cary residents should not support them without learning more, none which they addresses in either the newsletter, the town website or the video.

    First, consider the recent BUD newsletter which accompanied our water bill. It contains a brief description of the three bonds, but only identified the cost of one, close to $16 million, not the
    other two, which brings the total to $80 million.

    Additionally, the newsletter does not state what the expected revenue from the two cents per yr tax increase for the next two years will be, so residents have no idea how much the town
    will receive. Even the video does not indicate this number.

    Was this an oversight…or deliberate omission?

    Lastly, the mayor needs to address why we need to incur $80 million in debt and tax increases when it is reported Cary has a reserve of more than $50 million.

    And, since the mayor took the occasion to demean the selfless citizenship of one man, let me say something on this man’s behalf.

    Over the years I have come to know him quite well and admire his tireless efforts on behalf of all Cary residents. To my knowledge no independent citizen has done more to learn whether or not town funds are wisely being spent.

    He has invested his own time, investigating the validity of assertions, uncovering overspending when compared with neighboring towns. He even contacts towns using equipment Cary is considering to find out directly if they are having any problems.

    He has delved into proposals, pointed out excesses and shortcomings. I don’t believe even council members research projects as deeply as he does; for if they did, many of the projects approved might not have gone forward.

    More times than not it appears the council approves most proposals brought to team by staff with little investigative work of their own.

    How many of us care as much? Sorry to say, not many.

    You are welcome to pass along to other Cary residents.
    Anthony Bruno

  3. Brian H
    Brian H says:

    Given the current state of the economy, and given the fact that I believe most of the citizens in the US(and Cary) are upset with how government “in general” spends our tax dollars. I think these bond referendums will be a HARD sale.

    I agree with Rhonda. I think Wake County in general really screwed its residents on property values. Plus, you now have the property tax deduction now on the table as something that maybe eliminated depending upon the outcome of this election. The only bond referendum that I will be voting YES for will be for the Fire Station upgrade.

    I am all for supporting the town, and paying my fair share, but at some point enough is enough.

  4. Bill
    Bill says:

    I’d gladly pay a one-time tax assessment to pay for these worthy projects, but I’m not stupid enough to vote for a permanent tax increase.

  5. Mike
    Mike says:

    Over the years I have lived in Cary I have seen many instances of wasteful spending. Ex. Dynamic signs along the roadways Cary paid and estimated 20 Million to install and landscape these signs because they were needed and would improve things. Yet I have seen them in use no more than 5 to 10 times over the last five years or so. Did we really need to spend or tax dollars on them? How many others are there?

    We can all agree that we can use some improvements in Cary. But the true problem that has to be fixed is the wasteful spending that it does. Over the years as new homes and businesses have been built where has all the additional revenue gone why do we not have a surplus? The amount of land is the same but we are now getting more taxes from that land when it gets converted to have homes and businesses on it. Where is it going? At this rate the more we attract new homes and business the more taxes we will pay while we give corporations incentives to come here.

    It is true that homes at or below the 275K mark are assessed close to true market value but those higher are over assessed by as much as 10 to 25% higher then what they can sell for. Wake County will not even look at this or try to adjust the rates as they do not want to lose that revenue stream. But if you do an improvements to your home they will increase you assessed value still higher even though it is higher then market value. The fact is that when reassessment comes up in 2016 Wake County for sure will be looking at increasing the tax rate so that yes your house will be assessed at a lower value but you will still be paying the same amount of taxes. Or is this just in preparation for that so that we feel we are getting a deal?

    The problem I see here is that they say they want to increase the tax rate by 4 cents over the next 4 years but they do not say how long it will take to pay that loan off or that the increase will ever come off which we all know it will not.
    I say show us the details how long will it take for that additional income to pay off the bonds. Same as the lottery it was going to add funding to the school systems. What you were not told is that as the lottery added its funding the sate decreased its portion. So the school system is no better off. It’s what we are not being told that counts. Government needs to be more transparent and held accountable for their actions. It amazes how we state can justify these severance packages for some of these high paid employees when they cannot perform their jobs. Another 263K in tax money wasted. You cannot do the job your gone no golden parachute. That’s what you were paid to do and did not perform.

    The economy has been tough on all of us and we have had to learn to adjust our spending related to what we are earning my household income has gone down from what it use to be but we have learned to adjust and cutback on waste. Why Cary can’t do the same and stop the wasteful spending and learn to adjust amazes me.

    Until I see the wasteful spending end my answer will always be “NO” but we all know that will not stop them from raising it the same as no one really voted to have a toll road but it happened. Look how many people use it on a daily basis. The toll was to pay for that road but we are still pumping in 26 million tax dollars a year to offset its revenue. How long will that continue.

  6. Lori Bush
    Lori Bush says:

    Thanks to the Cary Citizen for reposting my blog. I am thankful that this discussion is occurring online, as I’m sure it is also happening around the Kitchen table, too.

    I wanted to address some of the comments made – just for edification.

    @Helmeted – Sharrows (or shared-lane markings) aren’t for encouraging bicycling. They are intended to help a bicyclist understand where they can best position themselves on the road to best share the road with automobiles. They also remind drivers that cyclists are on the road, as well.

    @Dean – the Town hasn’t had a tax increase in 23 years, even though we have had bonds before, because we had for some of that time, double-digit growth. The revenues from much of that growth funded many new projects. As our growth has slowed down, to between 3-5%/year, much of the *new* infrastructure has been paid for by new development, but the older infrastructure has also aged. Our revenues have declined, as the interest rates fell, as well. (That is a big factor that has impacted our funding.)
    Also, I personally believe that we have made the right choice in hiring a Sustainability Manager. Cary is progressive and forward thinking Town, and our commitment to sustainable practices in order to keep the future in mind – thinking about the environment, economy, and quality of life. We’ve implemented a plan for Electric vehicle charging stations, green building for our Fire Stations, and have received a number of Federal grants that might not have occurred without this strong focus. (~$500K in sustainability grants form the EPS, $100K from federal program for solid waste funding sustainable projects, $12K for solar, and more. )

    @Mary Margaret – The $250,000 median house price in Cary is from the CNN Money Magazine article .

    I hope this helps – and hope that everyone will continue the conversation. Thanks for reading!

  7. Mary Margaret
    Mary Margaret says:

    Cary is a wonderful town. Although we all want the best for our town the country is in a very difficult economic situation. It is unreasonable for the town to ask for a tax increase when so many citizens are impacted by the economy. There always other options the town can consider beyond the bond.

    Most homes in Cary have a value greater than $250,000. Most residents will see an increase that is
    Greater than $50.00.

    I will not support the bond, especially when Cary is offering to sell town land to potential business owners
    At approximately $200, 000 less than Cary paid for the property.

  8. Rhonda BZ
    Rhonda BZ says:

    Right now my house has a tax value of over $40,000 MORE than what I could sell it for at this time (because yes, we tried, and we saw what comps sold for, as well as all the offers we got were for $40,000+ less than tax value.)
    I wouldn’t mind so much paying more property tax *IF* the tax evaluations on our homes were actually done properly. If the amount my house is *worth* goes down, but the tax rate goes up by a couple cents, it might end up just being a wash at that point.
    If the same thing happens on a bigger scale around Cary, then how would these bonds even make a difference?
    I’m curious about those kinds of real world details….

    • Brooke Meyer
      Brooke Meyer says:

      Sounds like you have a good case to appeal your Real Estate Tax Evaluation next January. http://www.wakegov.com/tax/appeals/Pages/default.aspx

      Wake County does property evaluations every 8 years. The last Wake County evaluations were done in Jan. of 2008, before the housing mess hit the fan. Had they been done a year later, you’d probably be a lot closer to current conditions.

  9. Dean
    Dean says:

    Tax revenue from property taxes is up $10 million in the past 4 years.

    Your example of a restaurant owner, didn’t include him raising prices on his dishes. The owner wouldn’t want to drive off his customers with higher prices.

    We haven’t had a property rate increase in 23 years. So, what is the Town of Cary doing wrong now that they have to raise taxes after 23 years?

    • Brooke Meyer
      Brooke Meyer says:

      While tax revenue has gone up $10 million, 33,500 new residents are being provided services. And costs have gone up for things the Town purchases like health insurance for employees and diesel for garbage trucks.

      The Town isn’t asking to increase the property tax rate. Its asking for Bond authority, like a homeowner getting an equity line to add on a home improvement. Yes, it’ll be paid for by an increase in property taxes, just like an equity line payment is paid on top of a mortgage. When the equity line is paid, it’s done. And the homeowner is left with a more valuable house.

      I want to improve Cary’s curb appeal and I’m willing to pay a little for it. If you want things to stay the same, vote No on the Bonds.

      • Dean
        Dean says:

        When the town gets rid of their “Sustainability Manager”, then I’ll start believing that they are spending money wisely.

        Those 33,500 new residents didn’t need the new items being asked for by the bonds. The most that would be needed for new residence in new areas are a few police men and a new fire station. The town doesn’t add new office workers based on the number of people moving into the town, because it is not needed. The reason operation cost have gone up, is because the Town of Cary has added services that they apparently didn’t plan on paying for in the long run.

        • Brooke Meyer
          Brooke Meyer says:

          The citizens of Cary, voters, will decide what services they need and want.

          My hunch is, everyone who uses Cary Community Centers, Cary Arts Center, Page Walker, Bond Park, Kids Together Park, Booth Amphitheater, Symphony Lake, Tennis Courts, Skate Park, Dog Park, Spring Daze, Lazy Daze, Jogging Trails, Soccer Park, etc, etc, etc will think those services and facilities have value in addition to excellent Police, Fire and Utility services. How else to explain 10,000 visitors a month to the Cary Arts Center alone?

          The Town of Cary has the lowest taxes, highest credit rating and lowest ratio of employees to residents in Wake County. Cary is consistently rated one of the best and safest places in the U.S. to live. If Town government is spending money unwisely, they’re doing a lot less of it than anywhere else. There are many communities that wish their local governments spent tax dollars as unwisely as Cary.

  10. Brooke Meyer
    Brooke Meyer says:


    This isn’t about Raleigh or DC, its about the Town of Cary where you and I live. Besides the lowest taxes in the county and a great credit rating, we haven’t had a rate increase in 23 years. Not exactly a never ending cycle.

    A 30% increase in tax base means a 30% increase in service costs. Its an equation. More customers equals more costs. All the increase does is keep things going, it doesn’t build.

    A successful restaurant owner who gets more customers hires more waiters and buys more food but eventually, has to borrow to build because he’s out of space. He gets a loan, builds bigger and pays it off over time. Its a capital long term cost, not an expense like salaries and utilities. That’s what these Bonds do.

  11. Pete
    Pete says:

    Brooke, to your point. With a 30% increase in the tax base, Why should we also need to increase tax rates? I will be voting against the bonds. I will never vote for any tax increase, for any reason. It is a never-ending cycle with local, state and federal governments constantly spending more than they have and coming back to the well, our wallets. I am not saying that I am against all taxes. What I am saying is, enough already. The Town of Cary needs to take a look at the whole budget and prioritize. If money is desperately needed in one area more than another then reallocate it, maybe take some resources from the bloated police department.

  12. Brooke Meyer
    Brooke Meyer says:


    It’s not 50 bucks here or there. It’s 50 bucks a year, tax deductible, paying a fixed term bond that buys long term capital improvements that people see when they visit Cary. It certainly made a difference 14 years ago when my wife and I drove around the area, looking for a home. It makes a difference today. Call any Realtor and ask them how much curb appeal is worth. Cary has curb appeal and it makes your home worth more.

    The Town of Cary pays the same increase in CPI as everyone else so the increase in property valuations just keeps things even. Town government pays the same increases in gasoline, vehicles, utilities, supplies and insurance as everyone else.

    New residents expect and deserve the same services and amenities as current residents so you can’t defer things. No matter how you slice it, 30% growth is a challenge.

    Our “government” is people, like you and me, who serve and tolerate enormous criticism, often anonymous, no matter what they do. What have they accomplished? Cary has the lowest taxes and highest credit rating in Wake County. Cary is nationally recognized as a great and safe place to live.

    If we don’t care about that and we don’t care about our home values, we can defer things.

  13. Brooke Meyer
    Brooke Meyer says:

    Money Magazine lists the Cary population at 112,400 in 2008 and 145,900 in 2012. A 30% increase in service demand with no increase in tax rates, while maintaining the quality of the services, is testament to good management.

    Clearly, people want to live in Cary. Keeping Cary attractive is critical for Cary homeowners. Even if you don’t commute or use parks or the Arts Center or never need the Fire Dept., 50 bucks of deductible property tax helps keep Cary homes in demand, helps maintain and improve your home value.

    • Dean
      Dean says:

      Brooke, 50 bucks here and 50 bucks there might not mean anything to you, but it might mean something to another resident of Cary. Cary is not 100% PH’d’s making over $100k a year.

      My point is, that given extra money, the Town of Cary has proven to be just like any other government, they just spend it. They got their tax increase in 2008 when the property valuations happened.

      And let’s be honest, a few more miles of trailway, revamping 5 year old intersections that apparently weren’t planned correctly in the first place and updating a 40 year old fire station will not convince anyone to move to Cary within the next 5 years. It can wait.

  14. Dean
    Dean says:

    When the bonds are paid off, does the tax increase go away? Or does the Town Council find new ways to spend the extra money? When will the extra sales tax go away?

    Because, as I pointed out on Harold’s Blog, the town had an increase in property tax revenue of $10 million over the past 4 years, but managed to spend that increase. This increase was possibly mostly due to the 38% increase in property values due the evaluation in 2008.

    Parks that will be hardly used can wait until money is saved. I’m sure most people don’t even know about the park near the Culture Art Center auxiliary parking lot. If they know about the auxiliary parking lot.

    It is time to rethink fire stations. How many fires have happened in Cary? Would it be more logical to send smaller trucks out to 911 calls instead of a full sized fire truck, when a fire is not reported? Can we use some of the many empty office buildings to house fire stations?

    • Dee
      Dee says:

      Real estate tax increases happen roughly every 8 years. Two problems I see with the bonds and usage of said monies – why those huge digital signs around town which are hardly ever used and unnecessary?

      Also, I keep noticing more and more purchased statuary and art. If we are in difficult economic times maybe cutting the budget on some items is more needed than a tax increase.

      I like the comment about the huge fire trucks making visits for 911 calls. Sending smaller trucks makes more sense.

      Common sense – not just using current budgeted monies and being more fiscally responsible.

  15. Helmeted
    Helmeted says:

    Save paint and labor: forget the near-useless sharrows on any more roads…they do NOT encourage bicycling!

    How about instead of little arrows on the road–we just have signs that say “Hi cell-phone-talking drivers, don’t hit me, please. Thx!”

    Maybe even… light up those pricey curbside Glenn Lang-era signs in the ‘hoods with clever cycling safety phrases!

    Or, ban 2-wide cyclists like Apex PD does!!

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