Orange County

Chapel Hill planning $40M to $50M bond next year

The town could ask voters to approve $40 million to $50 million in bonds next year for long-term needs.

If approved, the town could use $20 million of the bond money in 2016, and have at least seven years to spend the rest, business management director Ken Pennoyer told the Town Council on Wednesday night.

The money is available almost a year earlier than expected because the town has saved money in its debt service fund, he said. The council also added a penny to the property tax rate this year, or roughly $752,000, to help pay for future projects.

While local governments commonly raise taxes to repay money it borrows, Pennoyer said the town will rely on its more than $7.5 million debt service fund. The council could talk about possible bond projects and other details at its January retreat. Proposed projects must be listed on the ballot and approved separately.

Stancil said this spring the town has identified roughly $159 million in building needs through 2019. The projects include a new police department, a solid waste transfer station, five new fire stations and a new parks and recreation office – all of which was estimated at roughly $46 million, he said.

The last voter-approved bonds were in 2003 for $29.36 million in bike and pedestrian amenities, greenways, downtown streetscape improvements, expanding the Chapel Hill Public Library and smaller projects.

In other business:

The council unanimously approved expanding its extraterritorial jurisdiction to include the Rogers Road neighborhood off Eubanks Road. The community is outside the town limits but part of Chapel Hill and Orange County’s joint planning area.

The council also authorized Stancil to begin long-term planning with the community.

The county needs to approve the expansion, which would give Chapel Hill planning responsibility for the community’s future. Rogers Road residents still won’t be able to vote for council members.

The change will help the town to put community development grant money into a $5.8 million sewer project serving 86 Rogers Road homes. The money is awarded for projects in low- and moderate-income communities.

Chapel Hill and the county could pay 43 percent each of the cost; Carrboro could pay 14 percent.