CHAPEL HILL – Orange County Manager Frank Clifton released his budget proposal last week and it leaves the Chapel Hill Carrboro City School District short of what it asked for by about $4.5 million. Board of Education members say it’s too steep and they need the funding.
“But for a single year, this certainly feels like a drastic amount,” said James Barrett of the CHCCS Board of Education.
Last year, the County funded most of the BoE’s request. Barrett says he was not pleased that Clifton’s proposed budget for this fiscal year did not include a tax increase to help fund the amounting costs the CHCCS are facing.
“The big item is Northside. The operating costs of Northside are not provided by the state—things like the school nurse and social worker or the assistant principal,” Barrett said. “When we open a new school we do have those additional costs—which add up to about 2 millions dollars, the biggest chunk of the additional funding that we are looking for.”
Barrett says the additional funds could come from one or the combination of two tax increases. The first is the Special District Tax that would only tax those with in the CHHCS borders. There’s also the county-wide property tax—which revenues from that would be spread between the Orange County School District and CHHCS.
He says if the Special District Tax is raised to cover what the Board is asking for— it will equate to a 5.5 cent tax increase.
Barrett says it’s been the practice to raise the Special District Tax when the district opens a news school because the tax is applies only to the district.
The county hasn’t seen a property tax increase in four years, according to Barrett.
If the commissioners don’t allow the extra funding, Barrett says the Board of Education will have to find some way to cut the overall budget to allow for the operation of Northside.
Both school districts have available fund balance they could use to fund their budget needs. The estimated existing fund balance for CHCCS is $6,123,908. The estimated excess above the established minimum is $ 2,643,524, according to Clifton’s budget proposal.
Barrett says the County Commissioners will received the budget this Tuesday and then commissioner will take public comment later this month.
“I have confidence that our commissioners are people that listen to their constituents,” he said. “We share a lot of the same voters. I think that they should listen to them.”
The first public comment on the budget on is on May 23 at the OC Department of Social Services in Hillsborough and the second is May 30 at the Southern Human Services Center in Chapel Hill.
“I think there is a need to plead the case to the county commissioners that there is a need for a tax increase to support those additional expenses,” Barrett said. “It’s incumbent upon anybody who wants to advocate for that additional funding to make sure the commissioners are aware of it.”
To read Clifton’s budget proposal for Orange County, click here.