The current fiscal year will not conclude until October, but officials in Orange County are already preparing to approve a new budget with provisions for school districts and government employees.
That budget was presented to the Orange County Board of Commissioners by County Manager Bonnie Hammersley, who listed the intended financial priorities for the upcoming year.
“Some of the initiatives in this budget: increased funding for Orange Connect scholarship program, increased per-pupil funding for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools, compensation package for county employees, increased funding for Orange Public Transit, implement collaborative initiative for housing rehab,” she relayed.
Hammersley also announced the amount of funding that school districts would be receiving to cover their expenses, with recommendations having been made last week.
“Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools would receive $2.1 million in this recommended budget and Orange County City schools would receive $1.4 million for a total of $3.5 million,” she stated. “The per-pupil increase is $123.”
The amounts briefed by Hammersley were less than those requested by superintendents, which may be due to what she described as a declining general fund balance.
“Most notably will be the recognition of the general fund balance that has declined since 2016-17 at a rate faster than revenues have been received,” she specified.
Discrepancies notwithstanding, Hammersley explained that county staff members are likely to benefit from a reimbursement of increasing health care costs from the municipal government.
“A couple weeks ago, you — as a board — acted to cover the cost of the increase of 5.05 percent on health insurance,” she recalled. “That is not a cost share; that is a county cost and is rolled into the compensation package for the employees.”
Board chair Mark Dorosin lauded the actions taken by elected officials to facilitate that reimbursement along with a two-percent increase in county employee wages.
“The health insurance cost increased by five percent and this board made a decision in support of the workers in this county, who work for this county, that the county would bear the cost of that, not the individual workers,” he affirmed. “That is a real reflection of the commitment we have to the folks who work for the county.”
Additional budgetary stipulations include the hiring of two housing specialists, two child welfare workers and three additional social workers that will address the needs of the county.
The total recommended operating budget for Orange County during the next fiscal year is over $251 million, with a recommended capital budget of over $27 million.
Public hearings on those amounts are expected to take place later this month, with a complete list of dates available here.