Chatham budget holds line on taxes, includes teacher incentive pay

From staff reportsJune 17, 2014 

— The Chatham County Board of Commissioners adopted a $94 million county budget Monday that holds the tax rate steady, while funding a new teacher incentive pay program and continuing a high school laptop program.

“Through cautious spending over the past four years, Chatham County is in the position of being able to fund important school needs requested by the Board of Education and help get our employees’ salaries up to a more competitive level,” Chairman Walter Petty said in a news release.

Petty added that the budget also helps move the county closer to achieving a AAA bond rating, which is the highest possible rating.

The county tax rate of 62.19 cents per $100 of assessed property value means a homeowner with a $200,000 house will pay $1,243.80 in county taxes for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Under a change in the budget made by the commissioners, all county employees with salaries below market will get a raise effective October 1 that will bring them up to market level , while employees already at market will get a 2.5 percent increase.

The laptop program, in its fifth year, provides high school students and teachers with expanded learning opportunities outside the classroom and online progress assessments.

Vice Chairman Brian Bock called the incentive pay plan for educators “groundbreaking.”

“We believe we are the first in the state to have a locally-funded incentive pay plan,” he said in the release. “The plan rewards educators and classified personnel who help students reach their student learning targets.”

Bock said that these incentives should help the school system recruit and retain teachers capable of using innovative strategies to meet the state’s targets for growth in student learning.

Other major school projects funded in the adopted budget are:

• Joint School-County Garage: A joint county and school system garage was added to the capital improvement plan with no required tax increase due to increased revenues from the school impact fee. Combining the borrowing for the $8 million garage with the $12 million Agriculture & Conference Center will help the county leverage better borrowing terms and interest rates.

• Central Carolina Works: The budget includes $25,000 in second-year funding for a regional partnership involving several K-12 school systems and Central Carolina Community College. The program will place academic and career advisers in all high schools, with the goal of increasing students taking advantage of tuition-free college credit classes.

• School Facilities: The adopted budget includes funds for two other multi-year capital projects involving several schools, including a roof replacement plan and replacement and repair of paved areas.

The adopted budget includes funds for several economic development projects, a top priority of the Board of Commissioners. Petty noted, “Successful economic development projects will help ensure that we can continue to fund our budgetary needs without tax increases.” Specific funded items include:

• Chatham Randolph Megasite: This 1,800-acre site has been certified by the state as ready for industrial development. The budget includes additional funds for the Chatham Economic Development Corporation to develop and implement a plan to market the megasite to prospective industries.

• Goldston Sewer System: The budget provides $181,000 to help the Town of Goldston with its sewer installation process.

• Siler City Airport: A one-time allocation of $120,000 in matching funds will help Siler City improve its airport.

The adopted tax rates for the fire districts remain the same as last year with one exception. The commissioners approved a requested one-cent tax increase for the Siler City Fire Department to fund a full-time paid fire chief.

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