Orange County Manager Bonnie Hammersley unveiled her 2019-20 budget proposal on Thursday, May 2, during a regular meeting of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. State law mandates the board adopt a balanced budget before June 30.
Her proposed spending plan includes a 1.5 cents increase in the property tax rate to fund debt service and county operations. This plan would require tax increases in subsequent years to pay for more of the debt service as it comes on line from such projects as the library in Carrboro, the Northern County Campus and additional school projects from the 2016 bond vote. She presented commissioners with an alternative that would require a 5.8 cents tax increase in 2019-20 but would not require increases in subsequent years. The additional revenue would be placed into a Capital Reserve Fund to pay for the projects in future years.
"One option is to increase the tax rate for operations by nine-tenths of a cent and 4.9 cents for debt service for the next three years and create a Capital Reserve," she said. "An alternative approach, and the one I'm proposing, is a one-and-a-half cent increase in the county tax in 2019-20. Instead of raising the debt service tax rate in one year for all three years, I'm recommending that we raise the tax rate for debt service in each of the three years based on the projected capital needs spending in each of those years."
According to Hammersley, budget priorities were: debt service; personnel; funding for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Public Schools; contractual obligations; reserves.
Recommended spending for the next fiscal year is $236.4 million, an increase of $13.5 million from last year's adopted budget.
The Board of Commissioners has a policy to dedicate at least 48.1 percent of general fund revenues to funding public school education.
Under Hammersley's recommended plan, the owner of a $300,000 home would pay an additional $45 per year in property taxes.
The budget projected a slightly higher than normal property tax base growth of 2.1 percent and included 4 percent growth in sales tax revenues, which is in line with historic averages.
- $3.6 million in increased funding for the two public school systems for an average increase of $175 per pupil in local funding.
- 2 percent wage adjustment for county employees
- Small tax increases in the Damascus, Southern Triangle and White Cross fire districts.
In her presentation, county manager Bonnie Hammersley said the county is beginning to feel the impact of the loss of the Impact Fees.
The Board will hold public hearings on the budget and the Capital Investment Plan on May 14 and May 16 and a series of work sessions in late May and early June before adopting the budget at its June 18 meeting.
Find out more information about the county budget proposal on the county website.
Make your voice heard on the budget
Residents and taxpayers have two ways to express their opinions on the Orange County budget proposal. Public hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, May 14 at the Whitted Building (300 West Tryon St. Hillsborough) and Thursday, May 16 at the Southern Human Services Center (2501 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill). Each meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live on the Internet and broadcast on the county's government channel on cable. The following guidelines apply:
- Public comment sign up begins at 6 p.m.
- A table near or at the back of the room will have numbered sign-up sheets (please print legibly).
- Speakers will be called in order of sign up.
- At Public Hearings, Commissioners traditionally do not comment in order to allow citizens to have the maximum time to express opinions.
- Speakers may only sign-up for themselves, to insure speakers are present.
- Each speaker is allotted a maximum of three minutes.
If you can't appear in person, you can email your comments to the Board of County Commissioners at OCBOCC@orangecountync.gov.