CHAPEL HILL-Orange County Commissioners signaled on Thursday that they will hold the line on property taxes, though the CHCCS special district tax will go up.
The board won’t formally adopt the $187 million dollar budget until next week, but commissioners made it clear they want to keep the countywide property tax rate unchanged while still spending more money on public schools.
Looking ahead, some said that won’t be sustainable in the future.
“We have to keep in mind that this might be the last year that we’re going to go without raising taxes,” said Commissioner Penny Rich. “I’m not the kind of person who loves to raise taxes, but there’s a certain level of services that we expect in Orange County, and we can’t go year after year, especially with the school systems, and not raise taxes.”
The ad valorem tax rate will stay at 85.8 cents per $100 of assessed value for the fifth year in a row.
Last month, parents, teachers and administrators from both the Orange County and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools districts came out in droves to beg the board for more money to cover anticipated cuts at the state level.
In response, county commissioners dug into reserve funds to find $1.6 million in extra school funding, raising the per pupil allocation by $81 dollars for both school districts and generating approximately $1.6 million for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and $650,000 for Orange County Schools.
But that money is still not enough to open Chapel Hill’s new Northside Elementary. Commissioners agreed to raise the Chapel Hill-Carrboro special district tax by two cents to generate approximately $2 million for the new school. The new rate will be 20.84 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Commissioners also allocated $49,000 in additional funding for a host of nonprofit organizations, and set aside a quarter of a million for something they dubbed the Social Justice Fund, a reserve account to help lessen the sting of state cuts to social programs.
“In a way it’s a commitment that this is something we consider important,” said Board Chair Barry Jacobs. “I think we all agree there are depredations being done to the social safety net. We want to try to address them and we know can’t address them all.”
The board will vote to formally adopt the budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 at a meeting on Tuesday, June 18.