The final pieces of the puzzle that will form next year’s Orange County operating budget will be negotiated on Tuesday night as the county commissioners hold a work session to discuss more than two dozen amendments that have been proposed by commissioners and county staff during the budget process.
“The amendments are proposed, nothing has been voted on,” chair of the commissioners Penny Rich said. “The reason we make amendments to the budget is so we can have open discussions toward the end of the process.
“We want to know if we can move money around.”
Some of the proposed amendments are expected to draw more conversation that others. An amendment put forward by commissioner Mark Marcoplos calls for a quarter-cent property tax increase to be allocated specifically for projects aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change.
That amendment drew public comment – most of it positive – at a recent commissioner meeting. There has also been a large influx of emails to the county commissioners both for and against the proposal.
The Orange-Chatham Group of the Sierra Club – the national environmental advocacy organization – has asked that the commissioners adopt Marcoplos’ proposal.
Commissioner Mark Dorosin also is proposing a budget amendment that would lower the district tax for Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools by one cent. Residents in the school district pay the extra tax on top of county and municipal property tax rates.
Dorosin wrote in an email to the other commissioners explaining his reasoning that this proposal was meant to address what he described as the funding inequity between the two school districts in the county caused by the special tax.
Both the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools have to have the same per-pupil funding amount allocated by the county to the school districts. But Chapel Hill – Carrboro typically ends up with more money in raw dollars because of the higher number of students in the district and this extra tax.
“The proposal does not cut any funding for education,” Dorosin wrote. “It simply shifts the source of funds from the special district tax to the county general property tax.”
Another of the proposed amendments would give the county commissioners a slight increase in pay and cell phone and internet stipends.
Rich said that by the time this last work session rolls around, a lot of the county’s finances are locked into where they will end up for county services before a final opportunity for public input next week at the commissioners regular business meeting on June 18.
Tuesday’s work session is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Whitted Building in Hillsborough.
A full list of the proposed amendments can be found here.