A new fiscal year budget with provisions for parental leave, pay bonuses and procurable housing is being reviewed by the Chapel Hill Town Council before its expected adoption next month.
Town Manager Roger Stancil briefed council members earlier this week on the proposed budget and the $8.3 million that it would allocate for the construction of low-income domiciles.
“For affordable housing, it does continue the existing commitment of $5.3 million,” he affirmed. “On top of that, it continues the funding for DHIC, which includes about 140 affordable units at a cost of about $22,000 per unit.”
According to Robert Dowling, a member of the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition, the cost of those units is likely to be offset in part by a five-cent allocation from property taxes.
“The coalition has asked the council to increase the funds allocated to affordable housing by a nickel in the tax rate over the next two to three years,” he noted. “We are asking for more because more is needed.”
Residents may also be relinquishing even more of their income due to rising sales tax rates that were reported to council members by Ken Pennoyer, the municipal business management director.
“Sales tax is going up by 6.9 percent, which is a relatively strong growth,” he explained. “We are at risk due to potential changes in the distribution of sales taxes that’s being contemplated by the legislature; we stand to lose up to $1.4 million if that should happen.”
In addition to housing initiatives, the revenue generated by the town through taxation will support what Stancil described as a program to reward municipal employees that possess specialized skills.
“We are continuing to develop value-added pay programs,” he stated. “That includes, for example, in the police department, pay people who serve as field training officers, pay for people who are meeting our wellness standards — perhaps pay for people with other language capabilities in our police department.”
Stancil went onto inform council members of a requested parental leave policy for town staff that would coincide with the budget while offering paid time off to new mothers and fathers.
“We will be bringing back a policy for you for six weeks of parental leave, primarily to keep us competitive within the market and as a result of a recommendation from an employee committee,” he relayed. “It’s almost impossible to predict the cost of that parental leave, so our proposal to you is: we’ll implement it, we’ll manage it, we’ll report to you, and we can made adjustments as we go.”
A plan to purchase additional buses for the town was also presented by Pennoyer, who explained that all sales are tentative until anticipated grants are factored into the budget.
“[The] bus purchase plan includes 19 buses in next year’s budget,” he reported. “Some of those grants, we are waiting for award letters before we actually include those in the budget, and those will come before the council as additional appropriation when we do get the grant awards.”
Council members will ruminate on the proposed budget during work sessions scheduled over the next four weeks, with a final vote of adoption planned for June 12.