CHAPEL HILL- Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil’s recommended budget for next year calls for a two-cent property tax rate increase to cover transit budget shortfalls, increased library operating expenses and the transition of solid waste services to the Durham waste transfer station.
Stancil told the town council on Monday that none of this should come as any surprise.
“There’s nothing [the budget] that we haven’t been talking about for a year,” said Stancil. “So there are no topics in here that would cause you to say ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’”
The proposed hike would bring Chapel Hill’s property tax rate to 51.4 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value. A two cent increase would generate a little less than $1.5 million in revenue for the town. Half of that would go to the general fund, while the other half is earmarked for the transit fund.
Chapel Hill Transit is facing increased operating expenses at a time when state and federal funds are being cut. On a local level, Chapel Hill Transit is jointly funded by Carrboro, Chapel Hill and UNC. Stancil says the partners are examining the long-term sustainability of the fare-free system.
“We are looking at a team to help us think at how to have a sustainable transit system, because our land use systems and everything else in this community are built upon a sustainable transit system,” said Stancil.
The 2013-2014 budget does include $100,000 for extra staffing to keep the library open an additional four hours each week. This brings the total number of library hours up to 58, still short of the 68 hours per week level that the library operated at prior to its expansion.
Stancil says the library will likely change its schedule to include the new hours in the fall, but some on the council including Jim Ward pushed for the changes to be implemented as soon as possible.
“We’ve heard an awful lot already about the travesty in some people’s minds of having this great library and it not being open at critical times during the week, and to let this play out another half a year just seems unnecessary,” said Ward.
The council will likely spend much of the next month hashing out the final details of next year’s spending plan. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for next Monday.