Chapel Hill OKs budget, 2-cent tax hike

tgrubb@newsobserver.comJune 10, 2013 

— The Town Council unanimously approved a $94.9 million budget Monday that adds 2 cents to next year’s property tax rate and restores most public library hours.

The town’s 2013-14 budget includes a $54.8 million general fund budget and $40.1 million for various town services funds, including $19.8 million for transit, $7.4 million to pay the town’s debt and $2.7 million for parking facilities. The budget takes effect July 1.

The 2-cent property tax hike will be split between the town’s general fund budget and Chapel Hill Transit. The budget also uses roughly $2 million from the town’s savings, largely for one-time capital costs.

Chapel Hill property owners will pay 51.4 cents per $100 in assessed property value next year. That adds $60 to the $1,482 tax bill for a home valued at $300,000. Town residents also pay county and school district taxes set by the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

The commissioners could approve their budget June 18.

Fifty-six percent of a Chapel Hill taxpayer’s property tax bill supports the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. The town gets 32 percent, and the county gets 12 percent.

Council member Matt Czajkowski said he supports the new budget “with a heavy heart” even though Town Manager Roger Stancil did a good job balancing it.

“We will drive the few ... of those neediest among us out of Chapel Hill when we pass this budget. That’s just for sure. And every time we raise taxes – for whatever good purpose in part – we make it harder and harder for people of modest or even above-modest means to live here,” he said.

People not necessarily because of Chapel Hill’s tax rate, Council member Ed Harrison said. People who live in Durham, Carrboro or Hillsborough pay higher town taxes, he said. The county’s tax rate and the city schools district tax add to a Chapel Hill resident’s burden, and it’s also not getting any cheaper to provide services, he said.

“I don’t like raising taxes. I certainly don’t like raising them on myself,” he said. “We have a sound budget, and if you can justify a tax raise, this one is justifiable.”

The approved budget deals with several hefty issues, including an $872,000 reduction in state transit support and $355,000 more for the cost of closing the county landfill and taking the town’s trash to Durham.

The budget gives town employees a 2 percent raise. It also budgets $2.5 million, plus $144,426 in unexpected vehicle fee revenues and county contributions, to restore 64 hours to the Chapel Hill Public Library schedule. The library previously operated on a 68-hour schedule but was cut to 54 hours when the expanded building reopened in April.

Stancil said expanded weekend hours could start in early August. Library Director Susan Brown will spend the next few months studying how and when the library is most used. The council will receive a report in October and December, Stancil said.

He also cautioned the council that the 2014-15 budget year will hold continuing challenges, including long-term trash and recycling options, sustainable transit and retiree health care costs.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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