Don’s Blog: FY2019 Budget, Recycling and an Update on the Downtown Park

Cary, NC – The council and town staff held our third quarter meeting this past Thursday at the Matthews House in Downtown Cary. Our quarterly meetings are basically a mini council retreat where we reflect on noteworthy projects or initiatives over the last three months and discuss other important items while looking to the future.
Blogworthy discussion items included the budget, recycling and the downtown park.


We are still early on in the budget process and by “we” I mean the council. Town staff – especially those in finance – never really leave the budget process. As soon as one fiscal year’s budget is adopted they begin working on the next one. Who knew that collecting and spending $340 million was so complicated? ; ) Well, it is and we are blessed to have such talented folks working on it – even more so this year. This is the first year that our department directors; rather than simply submitting independent department requests to the Town Manager, worked collaboratively to identify the organization’s overall needs to submit a unified recommendation to our Town Manager. The result is a budget that more closely aligns the organization’s resources with our community’s priorities.

Proposed budget highlights include:

The addition of 12 new firefighters and a new ladder truck

$7.1 Million in street resurfacing

$1.75 Million in new sidewalks

$3.1 Million for Phase III of the Higgins Greenway

Master Plan Phase II of the downtown Park

$1.8 Million for Stormwater initiatives

$6.7 Million for Reedy Creek Road Widening


Proposed budget lowlights include:

Sanitation fees will increase $1 per month to help move the system closer to cost recovery

The Annual Vehicle License fee will increase $15.00 to help cover the costs of road improvements and sidewalks

Utility rates will increase 3% per household.

Recycling is becoming more expensive

This was a very interesting part of the budget discussion. While Cary’s robust recycling program never came close to breaking even, historically we have been able to sell certain recyclables for about $10.00 a ton. Recent changes in the market however have resulted in us now paying $21.47 a ton to get rid of it. So what happened? Well nearly 40% of US recyclables are shipped to China. That is until China squashed that last year and announced that they would no longer be importing most recyclables. Supply and demand.

Cary delivers roughly 11,000 tons of recyclables to Sonoco Recycling in Raleigh each year. At $10 a ton that generated $110,000.00 in revenue. Paying nearly $22 to get rid of it equals a $220,000 expenditure – a $330,000.00 swing. That stinks, and I ain’t talking about the trash.

In the end however it is a values decision. Does our community support recycling enough to invest another $330K to keep doing it? Is diverting recyclables away from the landfill worth it? I believe so. In fact, according to Cary’s most recent biennial survey, 93.9% of Cary citizens support Cary’s recycling program – It’s the right thing to do.

Citizens can comment on the proposed budget at the Budget Public Hearing in Council Chambers on June 14th or via email at Citizens can also contact council members at

Downtown Park Update

The council voted 6-1 to hire the Office of James Burnett (OJB) as the downtown park phase II master plan design consultant.

I had previously blogged about the selection process and firms competing for the job here. All four firms are world class and there is no question that any one of them would do a wonderful job if selected. They didn’t get to where they are by being mediocre. After an extensive interview process however, the majority of our town staff and council believed OJB to be the best fit for Cary for a number of reasons.

What really resonated with me was their emphasis on programming, their understanding of the park as a driver for economic development and redevelopment and that Cary’s own Withers and Ravenel are their civil engineers.

While it took a little longer to get here than I had hoped, I am very pleased with the end result and look forward to the real work getting started and working with the community to develop a remarkable master plan for the park so we can start building it. Git r done!

Downtown Cary Park

Levy Park in Houston Texas is one example of OJB’s work. Click on the link above to see more. Photo courtesy OJB.

That’s about it for now. As always thanks for reading and friend me on facebook or follow me on twitter for more town news and announcements.

From the blog of Cary Councilmember Don Frantz. Photos courtesy of Don Frantz and Hal Goodtree.

12 replies
  1. Nancie
    Nancie says:

    I totally support recycling! LIke Nancy said above, we pay for it one way or another. I just wonder why there aren’t more businesses that use recycled materials.
    1) Has the City vetted all their recycling options? Perhaps there are other recycling companies or systems that offer a better deal.
    2) Some forward-looking cities are using pay by volume trash pick up. That way, the people who make the most trash have to pay the most.
    3) Could the city sponsor a contest to reward start-ups that use recycled materials?

  2. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Bob, we already are paying for it…with our tax money. I’m sure you don’t want to live next to a landfill, no one does. And we pay taxes to move some of our waste to the recycling stream to reduce the amount of landfill space needed. I would like to see more focus on reduction of any waste in the first place, however.

  3. Bob Skiver
    Bob Skiver says:

    Your cost/benefit information shows why recycling is, quite obviously, a waste of our tax money.
    As this article explains, that is no surprise:
    Indeed, if Cary was not using our tax money for recycling, it might be able to cover road & sidewalk improvements without increasing our vehicle fees as much or at all.
    If the Town Council will not end wasteful mandatory recycling, perhaps it should consider making recycling voluntary with the cost borne solely by those who think it a worthwhile activity.
    If 93.9% really support recycling, let them volunteer to pay for it.
    After all, it’s the right thing to do.

    • Mark Neill
      Mark Neill says:

      On the other hand, everything can’t be a straight cost-benefit analysis.

      I’m sure we can agree that dumping toxic manufacturing waste into the Neuse river would be a very bad thing, right? However, that would obviously be the most cost efficient way to dispose of it. So if there is a line, then the question is where we decide that we, as a town, prefer to divert the waste stream from landfill than from recycling programs.

      The other issue is that this isn’t a cost-benefit analysis – it’s just outlining the change in the cost of recycling, not the change to switch from recycling the waste to dumping it. It might be interesting to know that, but with the numbers Don presented, you can’t actually determine if it’s cheaper in straight cost to switch to disposal instead of recycling. There’s also the question as to whether that change in cost is worth nearly doubling the waste stream generated by the town as a whole (the last numbers I saw a couple of year ago were that Cary recycled just under half of its total waste). Wake county already has a known impending dump issue, doubling Cary’s waste stream will make that lifetime even shorter.

      • Don Frantz
        Don Frantz says:

        Garbage disposal costs roughly $18 per ton – about $3.50 a ton less than recycling at current market price.

        • Mark Neill
          Mark Neill says:

          So then the actual cost/benefit number is $3.50/ton, and that number is strictly the cost to divert and deliver the waste stream, instead of recycling it. That $3.50/ton doesn’t include the costs of accelerating the fill rate of the landfill, however.

          I have a suspicion that “being green” is probably worth more than the couple of dollars per ton cost increase to keep all of this waste out of the landfill, especially given the participation rate of recycling in Cary.

  4. Jacob Nelson
    Jacob Nelson says:

    Thanks Don. We totally support the increase in vehicle fees to cover road and sidewalk improvements/repairs. Also, we support continued recycling -though it may cost us more. Looking forward to the DT Park Phase two; I hope it has a water feature kind of like a mini River Walk like the American Tobacco Campus in Durham near DBAP. You all are doing a great job…. keep up the good work!

  5. johnny jones
    johnny jones says:

    Awesome on the Park!!…few thoughts. 1) it should be practical to maintain 2) wide comfortable pathways 3) abundant shade areas 4) well lit for safe use at night.

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