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No property tax increase for Chatham residents in proposed county budget

Posted Wednesday, May 8, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - The Chatham County Manager's Office presented its proposed budget with no increase in the county property tax rate for fiscal year 2013-14 at the May 6, 2013, meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

"We've made sure we have funds to address a few critical issues, while insuring that we are prepared for potential impacts of state and federal budget decisions," said County Manager Charlie Horne. "Several proposed state bills in the General Assembly related to tax reform could reduce or otherwise impact county revenues."

The recommended $92.6 million general fund budget represents a four percent increase over the current county budget. The increase is funded with an expected modest increase in several categories of county revenues. For example, the portions of sales taxes based on local sales are trending seven percent above last year, even without the opening of the new Walmart this summer, said Renee Paschal, assistant county manager. The portion of sales tax based on statewide sales is only up 2% over last year.

Horne said that Chatham County has seen several other positive signs of growth in the past year:

* A 16 percent increase in single-family home permits issued in the first eight months of this year compared to the previous year.

* Significant economic development initiatives underway, including efforts to certify a large tract of land as a mega site and a 7,000-acre Chatham Park development in Pittsboro's zoning area.

* Chatham has seen major increases in new job creation and private business investments from July 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2012 compared to the previous two years.

The proposed budget targets the goals adopted earlier this year by the Board of Commissioners, including a primary goal of achieving a prosperous, thriving community. Three supporting goals are: achieve a AAA bond rating, ensure efficient and effective government and build a safer community.

The proposed budget includes the following for Chatham County schools:

* Current expense funding of $21.8 million, $400,000 less than the current year, but the current year's budget included a one-time appropriation to offset state budget cuts.

* Teacher supplement funding increased to $3.8 million to help cover increased supplement costs the school system had been absorbing.

* One-time appropriation of $500,000 for replacement laptops for all teachers in grades K-8. This is funded by a one-time decrease in the transfer to the debt reserve made possible by delaying the new high school two years.

* Several capital improvements: North Chatham traffic improvements recommended by DOT ($225,000); paving, repairs and replacements ($30,000) and replacement of Moncure and Sage roofs ($1,256,299).

The roofing projects would be funded from a one-time windfall of motor vehicle property tax revenues, resulting from the State DMV taking over collection of motor vehicle taxes during the vehicle registration process.

However, Paschal noted that the county will not move ahead with the school roof projects until after the state budget is adopted, just in case those funds are needed to fill shortfalls created by legislative actions.

For Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro and Siler City, the proposed budget recommends a four percent increase to cover increases in utilities and custodial care.
For general county operations, the proposed budget includes a three percent salary increase for all employees as well as updating a pay study done in 2008.

Horne said, "We have a goal to keep workforce pay competitive with the local job market. The proposed pay increase would build on the first step taken by commissioners in the current budget year for those employees whose salaries lagged further behind the local market."

The updated pay study will provide a more accurate target for the next few years, Horne added. "The recent uptick in local hiring has started to impact the county workforce with more employees leaving for higher paying jobs in the area."

Chatham County consistently has been well below the statewide average in numbers of employees per population. The state average for counties is 8.7 employees per 1,000 population, while Chatham County is at 6.7 employees per 1,000 population.

Horne said. "We know that we have a workforce that is hardworking and efficient, based on these statistics and recognitions earned. Keeping our pay more competitive will help us retain good workers for future service."

New general operations items included in the proposed budget are:

* $620,555 for new Sheriff's Office personnel to staff the new jail, which will begin operations in the summer of 2014.

* $93,201 for four new telecommunicators in the 911 Call Center due to a 77% increase in 911 calls over the past four years.

The only major facility added to the recommended budget for the first time is proposed Agriculture Center and Exposition Hall, slated to be built on county property just west of the Central Carolina Community College campus in Pittsboro. It would not open until 2016.

The 32,250-square-foot center would include offices for several county farm-related agencies and also would have an array of meeting and exposition rooms.

The only other major revision to the adopted 2014-2020 Capital Improvement Plan was the two-year delay in building the new high school, which was requested earlier this year by the Board of Education.

Residents are invited to provide feedback on the proposed budget at the following public hearings:

* Monday, May 20, 6 pm, Historic County Courthouse, Second Floor Courtroom, Pittsboro

* Tuesday, May 21, 6 pm, Siler City Courtroom

By May 8, printed copies of the proposed budget are available at the three library branches in Pittsboro, Siler City and Goldston. The document is already posted on the county website at using the Quick Links box at the top of the page.

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No property tax increase for Chatham residents in proposed county budget
The proposed 2013-14 budget has no increase in the Chatham County property tax rate.

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