BOA Hosts Public Hearing On Budget

CARRBORO – The Carrboro Board of Aldermen held their annual budgetary public hearing Tuesday night, with the public supporting the proposed budget for fiscal year 2013-2014.

“The town budget for 2013-14 is $28.3 million, $20.7 million is for the general fund and we have a very robust $6.9 million capital projects funds,” says Carrboro Town Manager David Andrews. The number of positions is even at 156.5, and we are recommending a 1.9% cost of living adjustment for town employees.”

This is Andrews’ second budget proposal since becoming the Town Manager of Carrboro last year.

Andrews says the town had three goals in mind when constructing the budget—and was able to fulfill all three.

“One was to implement the Board’s strategic priorities, control our costs while improving services, as well as developing a balanced budget with no property tax rate increase,” says Andrews. “We are very happy to report that for the fifth consecutive year, no property tax increase. I think that is a reflection on town staff as well as the Board of Aldermen.”

Although the number of town employees remained the same, there was some turnover on the town’s staff. The closing of the County landfill mandated the hiring of a Solid Waste Equipment Operator, but the Animal Control Officer position was removed because of a county takeover of the services.

One of the most substantial short-term changes to the budget was a nearly 400% increase in spending on capital projects.

Carrboro Public Works Director George Seiz says the Rogers Road sidewalk is the most costly capital project.

“We’re in the preliminary design stages at this point,” says Seiz, “but in essence the sidewalk will be mostly located behind the existing drainage ditch. We are trying to keep it all on public right of way, but we’ll need to get construction easements from just about every property owner as we go up and make this fit.”

The sidewalk is planned to run along Rogers Road from Homestead Road to Meadow Run Court—a distance of about a mile. Seiz estimates the cost of construction alone would cost upwards of $700,000 without accounting for easements. The project has around a half of million dollars in federal funding with the town responsible for the remaining balance.

Local historian Richard Taylor says he would prefer the Town hire a local concrete company for the project if possible.

“A few weeks ago, it was voted on by the Board to emphasize local suppliers,” says Taylor. “I don’t know if you can do it or not, but there is a concrete company in Carrboro, Ready Mix Concrete, so if you could do anything to use that local supplier to supply the concrete, it would be less wear and tear on the roads and give a local business some business for a very large project.”

Other increases to the Town’s budget include additional funding for Chapel Hill Transit, the NCNGN Fiber Optic Network and Greenways.

The town also increased its funding to the Community Home Trust from $34,000 to $35,000. Executive Director Robert Dowling says he is appreciative of the continued support from the Board.

“I’m here to say thank you for your support of the work of the Home Trust for these many, many years,” says Dowling.  “This year, the manager found a little bit extra—there is $35,000 in the proposed budget. If you are able to make the $1,000 increase, it would be much appreciated and well used I can assure you.”

According to Dowling, the annual budget for the Home Trust is about $700,000.

Lack Of County Property Tax Increase Could Change

CHAPEL HILL- Orange County Manager Frank Clifton presented his recommended 2013-2014 budget on Tuesday, and if the board of commissioners approves the plan as written, it would be the fifth year in a row without a property tax rate increase.

Clifton said despite a slow rate of growth, the county is on solid financial footing.

“As dire as some people may want to predict the county’s budget process is this year, we are probably in far better shape than a lot of other counties in this state,” Clifton told the board.

While the $185.9 million dollar spending plan fully funds all current services and provides for school enrollment growth, it does not meet the budget requests submitted by either the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system or the Orange County Schools system, requests that totaled $8 million in additional funding.

“Balancing today’s demands while sustaining the financial capacity to address the challenges of tomorrow requires difficult decisions,” said Clifton. “Fully funding every request, no matter how well intended the support or demand for those requests, is not a practical reality.”

The recommended $87.8 million education budget falls $6 million short of what the school systems asked for, but Chief Financial Officer Clarence Grier said the board does have options if commissioners wish to increase school funding.

“You could propose or approve a property tax increase to address any funding issues not addressed in the recommended budget, or increase the Chapel Hill-Carrboro special district tax in order to address their funding needs,” said Grier. “Also, both school districts have fund balance in excess of the required minimums that could be utilized to fund their needs.”

The board would need to raise the property tax rate 5.5 cents to generate the full $8 million. Raising  the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools special district tax by 5.5 cents would generate an additional $5.6 million for the school system.

The budget proposal includes funding for new EMS and IT personnel and raises the level of county funding to the Chapel Hill Public Library to $483,000 a year.

Grier said the county will likely spend about $3 million on landfill closure costs next year. The budget plan would double the annual household solid waste fees to $20 for urban residents and $40 for rural residents, raise the recycling fee by $10 and institute a new $10 mattress disposal fee.

Commissioners will hold the first of two public hearings on the budget on Thursday. That gets underway at 7 o’clock at the Department of Social Services in Hillsborough.