Orange County money could help add Chapel Hill library hours

tgrubb@newsobserver.comJune 4, 2013 

  • Proposed changes

    Interim Director Brian Litchfield said some Chapel Hill Transit services are restored or added in the proposed budget:

    • Extended weekday evening trips on the CM, CW, D and J bus routes

    • Later trips for the F route

    • Earlier hours for the Saturday JN route

    • Additional Saturday hours for the CM and CW routes

— The Town Council heard Monday that the county’s increased contribution to the Chapel Hill Public Library could keep it open a few more hours next year.

Council members also discussed Chapel Hill Transit and other concerns. They could adopt the $53.8 million general fund budget June 10.

As proposed, the budget adds two cents to the property tax rate – a penny each for the general fund and Chapel Hill Transit – making it 51.4 cents per $100 in assessed property value. That adds $60 to the $1,482 tax bill for a home valued at $300,000.

Town property owners also pay county and school district taxes set by the county commissioners.

The county’s 2013-14 budget sets aside $483,426 – $64,426 more than expected – for the town’s library. An interlocal agreement sets the county’s minimum annual contribution at 27 percent of its county library operational cost.

Town Manager Roger Stancil said the extra money could fund another 2.5 library hours. The town budget proposes enough money for 58 hours, prompting many residents to ask the council to fully fund the library’s previous 68-hour schedule.

Stancil said that would take another $181,281 with the county contribution.

Council member Sally Greene pointed out the circulation rate is 30 percent higher than last year, but staff has fewer hours and more work.

“We have a new library director who we expect great things out of, but if we expect her to create a 21st-century library … she’s not going to have time to have staff meetings to get her staff on board with these changes because her staff is burning out,” she said.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and council members Lee Storrow and Matt Czajkowski suggested delaying more money until new Director Susan Brown can assess the true needs.

The budgeted hours could be reallocated to where they are needed most, Czajkowski said.

“If we fund the total hours fully, there is no way that we are going to go backwards,” he said.

Council member Gene Pease offered a third option: Take critical services, such as public safety, off the table, and cut everything else evenly to fund the difference.

The council also reviewed the $18.8 million transit budget, which is facing a shortfall largely because of an $872,000 state cut.

State and federal funding comprise roughly 22 percent of Chapel Hill Transit’s budget. UNC would pay $7.4 million in local expenses, Chapel Hill would pay $4 million and Carrboro, $1.4 million, interim Director Brian Litchfield said.

The budget fills most of the gap with $364,000 in savings, an extra $150,000 from UNC for park-and-ride lots and $306,000 from a $7 vehicle registration fee increase. The fees could provide roughly $470,000 next year for transit; the remaining $164,000 would provide new services. Most of the early money from a half-cent transit sales tax will go to regional rail, Litchfield said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service