ARLINGTON -- Skate parks, street repairs and a free shuttle system between downtown and the Trinity Railway Express are among projects planned in Arlington for next budget year.Many new spending items proposed in the $396.5 million budget aim to improve education, mobility, economic development and public safety. The budget, which the City Council will vote on next month, also includes a 3 percent raise for the city's 1,779 employees. If approved, it will be their first raise in four years.The budget proposals were outlined Wednesday night at a public hearing before the council.The city plans to set aside about $25 million to resurface and repair aging streets -- about $5.8 million more than originally projected. That increase would come from greater-than-expected sales taxes and accumulated balances in the street maintenance fund from previous years, officials said. The additional funding would expedite projects currently scheduled to start in 2014, but the public works and water utilities departments are still coordinating to determine which streets will be worked on, officials said.A list of road projectsRoad projects already approved to begin or be complete in fiscal year 2013 include complete rebuilding and the addition of fifth and sixth lanes to Lamar Boulevard between Collins Street and Ballpark Way; the extension of Collins Street to Mansfield-Webb Road; and construction of a bridge that would extend Center Street south of Interstate 20."We're making significant investments in capital infrastructure throughout the community," said City Manager Trey Yelverton, who also highlighted proposed drainage, water and sewer and other planned improvements.A few residents at the meeting urged the city to avoid replicating the traffic-calming features recently installed on Norwood Lane on other streets with speeding problems. Earlier this year, Arlington completed a $75,000 traffic-calming project, transforming the four-lane straight street into a winding road with concrete bump outs and a traffic circle designed to reduce speeds. Some residents say they felt the changes made the street unsafe."Norwood was a waste of money. We should have tried stop signs first," Kimberly Frankland said.The city also plans to improve traffic signal timing to reduce gridlock and add 30 traffic cameras along roads south of Interstate 20 to bolster its 125-camera Intelligent Transportation System.Another proposal would earmark $350,000 in natural gas revenue to help launch a public-private partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington and businesses to shuttle visitors by bus for free between downtown and the Trinity Railway Express CentrePort station. The project, expected to run two years and cost approximately $700,000, would not proceed if stakeholders cannot match the $350,000. Yelverton said the future goal is to create an actual rail connection that connects Arlington to the region.Parks and recreationFeatures for skateboarders are planned for at least four city parks. Arlington will begin construction on the citywide Vandergriff skate park, a neighborhood skate park at Randol Mill Park and two smaller skate spots at Burl Wilkes and Workman parks.EducationInitiatives aimed at supporting quality education in Arlington include buying e-readers, math and science books, award-winning books and educational software for the public library.Art and tourismThe city plans to spend $150,000 to start an art walk/sculpture trail along Johnson Creek near Cowboys Stadium and the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The project, which would include 10 to 15 sculptures, aims to highlight events from the city's history, such as hosting Super Bowl XLV in 2011, and to create another tourist destination.Arlington has also earmarked $150,000 to help attract a convention center hotel to the entertainment district. The city also plans to add $50,000 to match a $300,000 state grant to install monuments along Interstate 30 that would let motorists know they were entering the city.Taxes and feesArlington plans to keep its property tax rate the same for the 10th consecutive year. The tax rate remains 64.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Because of an overall decline in assessed property values, the average Arlington property owner is expected to pay $2.72 less in property taxes, according to the city.The average Arlington household, however, is expected to pay $21.28 more in city fees next fiscal year. Nearly $12 of that is because of the newly adopted recycling cart program approved by City Council earlier this month. The 65-gallon wheeled carts will roll out to Arlington's 93,000 households in about six months. Residential customers will see a 94-cent increase in their monthly water utility bill whether they recycle or not, city officials said.Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578Twitter: @susanschrock
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Another hearing on Arlington's proposed fiscal 2013 budget is set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the South Police Service Center, 1030 S.W. Green Oaks Blvd. The council is set to vote on the budget on Sept. 13. The proposed budget is online at arlingtontx.gov.