The Fayetteville Area System of Transportation and rental housing inspection, took center stage at the Fayetteville City Council Work Session on Monday, April 7.
    In an ongoing series of conversations held by the council on improving the city’s buses, Ron Macaluso, the transit director, reported back to the council on possible sources of revenue to fund more than $600,000 in improvements to the system. Macaluso brought the needed improvements, which include hiring of more staff, training, equipment and software updates and salary increases, to the council earlier this year. While the council was in agreement that the uprgrades need to occur, they could not agree on a means of funding the upgrades, so they asked Macaluso to research funding options.
    {mosimage}He presented the council with seven options: Increase transit fares and authorize a $5 motor vehicle tax to support the upgrades; prepare special legislation (a local bill) that would be required for the Vehicle Gross Receipt Tax or a sales tax increase; authorize fare increases only; authorize motor vehicle license tax only; authorize the Vehicle Gross Receipts Tax only; authorize the sales tax only; or a combination of fare increases and motor vehicle license tax. The council opted for the latter, but also charged City Manager Dale Iman with looking into the possibility of having Cumberland County’s state legislators introduce a local bill into the short session to increase the local Vehicle Gross Receipt Tax (taxes on rental cars) to help fund the system.
    Iman told the council that he was uncertain as to the fate of such a bill because of the short session and the length of time left to get it introduced. He also noted that funds from such a tax would not come into play for at least six to eight months.
    The council is expected to formally approve the fare increases and the $5 additional tax on all vehicles registered in the City of Fayetteville at an upcoming meeting. If officially approved, the move would garner more than $600,000. If the Vehicle Gross Receipts Tax makes it through the legislature at a 3.5 percent increase, it will add more than $600,000 to the funding for the system.
    In regards to rental housing inspection, the council sent Assistant City Manager Doug Hewett back to the drawing board. Inspections for housing that does not meet minimum housing codes were part of the Fayetteville Forward pact. Council members wanted to find a way to bring housing in the city up to code.
The plan Hewett brought to the work session, would require all landlords who own rental housing to register their homes with the city and to undergo inspections once every four years. The proposed cost of inspections was $125 per unit. Landlords with more than 10 units would be required to inspect 10 units or 20 percent of the total number of units. The proposal had an initial start-up fee of $322,313.
    “We came with a sprained wrist, and we’re getting a full-body cast here,” said Mayor Tony Chavonne following Hewett’s presentation. “That’s a tremendous amount of government.”
    Chavonne’s comments were echoed by other members of the board who feared renters would be unable to bear the cost of the inspections, which landlords would pass on. The council directed Hewett to look at ways of dealing with only the substandard housing. Councilman Ted Mohn suggested beefing up the existing inspections department, and having them focus on areas where housing is considered to be substandard. 

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