Local Leaders Talk County Orange County Budget Conflict

By Rachel Nash Posted May 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm

CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Carrboro City School board members are concerned about Orange County Manager Frank Clifton’s budget proposal. They say this will leave the District short of what it asked for by about $4.5 million. But county commissioners say it’s still early in the budget process.

“We’re going to need to be prepared to make some tough decisions in the coming weeks,” said Todd LoFrese, Assistant Superintendent for CHCCS.

LoFrese explains the additional funds could be made up by raising the Special District Tax— that only tax those with in the CHHCS borders.

Northside elementary school is opening this year and in the past when new schools are opened—an increase Special District Tax has been used to help cover the cost.

However, that was not included in Clifton’s budget proposal.

“Not to see it there and to see Northside left unfunded was discouraging,” LoFrese said.

Chair of the BoC Barry Jacobs says it’s too early for panic because the commissioners haven’t formerly been presented the budget and still have yet to hold public comment sessions.

“This is like a dance. The school boards asks for their optimal budget, but we can never match it, but then we come to a preferred budget,” Jacobs said.

He says the BoC recently added several new members and have not discussed raising the Special District Tax.

Clifton and Jacobs both say the CHCCS can tap into its fund balance.

“We have to maintain some fund balance cash-flow purposes so we can pay our bills and meet our payroll obligations and we didn’t see much more available moving forward,” LoFrese explained.

Lofrese says $6.1 million available in the fund balance— $3.4 million above the required minimum. He says $3.2 million of the fund balance has already been committed to balancing the budget. They can’t operate if any more of the fund balance is dipped-into.

Jacobs says the commissioners will take into account the challenges the school board is facing.

“The BoC has a proud history of supporting our schools to the full level that we can and we are not going to back away from that commitment,” Jacobs said.

Clifton will present next year’s budget proposal when the board of commissioners meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Southern Human Service Center on Homestead Road.

To read Clifton’s budget proposal for OrangeCounty, click here.

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