The city of Charlotte's spending on police officers and firefighters is "financially unsustainable without large budget cuts or increased taxes," according to a task force appointed by Mayor Anthony Foxx that presented its yearlong study into the city's finances Monday night.
The warning is cold water to the city, which has so far survived the economic downturn mostly unscathed, at least compared with other governments, including Mecklenburg County.
The task force, chaired by Cyndee Patterson of The Lee Institute, said that the city's biggest problem is that it gives public safety employees raises annually that exceed the growth rate for other city employees.
An additional problem is that the city will lose federal stimulus dollars that have helped pay for 125 new police officers, leaving a $5.6 million hole in the budget by 2014.
The report said that by fiscal year 2013, police and fire expenses would outstrip property tax revenue that primarily pays for them. Public-safety represents 65 percent of the city's general fund.
"You don't have a lot of time to fix this," Patterson said.
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