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Chatham County approves $133 million capital program

By Debra Henzey
Posted Monday, November 7, 2005

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Includes three new schools, community college buildings, new library, and judicial facility

Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County Commissioners took action Monday to build 11 public facilities with no additional tax increase. “I don’t know of any other jurisdiction that is able to achieve this kind of program,” stated Doug Carter, when presenting a financial plan to fund the facilities.

The County retained Carter, a financial planner and former director of Charlotte’s Finance Department, to help the county fund its capital program. Commissioners approved the plan Monday, which will allow the county to borrow $133 million for capital projects, including three new schools, community college buildings, a new library, and several other county facilities.

Carter commended the Board for placing the county in the position to fund the debt without future tax increases for these capital projects. The plan is made possible in part by a four-cent tax increase in the FY 2005-06 budget (placed in reserve) combined with school impact fees (raised to $2,900 in July). “Impact fees are worth about 4.5 to 5-cents on the property tax rate,” he added. Without these revenue sources and the capacity created by paying off existing debt, the county could face a large tax increase in future years.

As it is, the current sources should cover the debt. “It is very significant to do a program this big for four cents,” Carter said. He further stated that the county should receive the most favorable debt terms because of its “very high quality credit,” as evidenced by a “aa” bond rating from Standard and Poor’s.

In preliminary discussions with the Local Government Commission, the state agency that oversees local governments’ borrowing, the county had been told that the maximum amount it could borrow was approximately $70 million.

However, Carter’s expertise and work with County staff increased the debt capacity by approximately $63 million, allowing the county to include the new high school in the northeast in the capital program. The new high school will be placed on the ballot for consideration by voters in November 2006.

Other capital projects will be funded by certificates of participation (COP) and include:
• A new elementary school in Siler City
• A new middle school in northeast Chatham County
• A new, larger cafeteria for Jordan Matthews High School
• Renovations to Horton Middle School
• Public facilities, such as water and sewer, for the county’s business park in Siler City
• A new community college job training center in Siler City (to be located within the county’s business park)
• A new building for the Pittsboro campus of Central Carolina Community College (CCCC)
• An expansion of the social services building
• A new judicial facility
• A joint CCCC and county library

“The Board of Commissioners and county staff have done an excellent job in getting us to this point. This is an ambitious plan that will serve the needs of our residents for decades to come,” stated Chairman Bunkey Morgan.

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