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Posted Friday, May 27, 2011
Pittsboro, NC -I want to thank those who attended the public hearings on the proposed budget in Pittsboro and Siler City. While the majority of those I’ve spoken with and heard from support the proposed budget others have expressed concern that we are cutting vital services and environmental safeguards.
Funding core services and protecting our environment are key components in this proposal.
Funding core services and protecting our environment are key components in this proposal. Before I outline how this budget does that, let me recap the reasons for reducing spending now.
We know that we have millions of dollars in additional debt service and operating costs over the next five years. Large portions of these expenses are the result of recently completed projects such as the Central Library, Margaret Pollard Middle School, and the community college. Other obligations that need to be covered are the result of projects that we are committed to or that we have promised, such as the new judicial center, a new high school and probably a new elementary school.
seniors and lower income residents have expressed strongly that an increase in property tax would be detrimental to their families.
These future expenses are known. What is not known is how changes at the state level will impact our budget over the next few years. In all likelihood, more expense will be pushed down to the county level. We also know that when property is revalued during the next cycle many will be reduced from the current levels, putting additional pressure on budgets.
Since we know all of these things, it is our obligation to plan accordingly. As many have said, we are not in a crisis. It’s our job to look ahead and ensure that we avoid a future predictable crisis. We can do that by reducing and prioritizing our spending or by increasing property tax rates. We are focusing on reducing and prioritizing.
Many seniors and lower income residents have expressed strongly that an increase in property tax would be detrimental to their families. Without the reductions proposed in the current budget we would need to increase our property tax rate this year and probably next as well.
It’s easy to focus on the $1.5 million net reduction being proposed and overlook the additions that prioritizing will allow. If this budget passes as proposed we will; increase overall spending for education by $1.4 million, increase operating budgets in the public safety sector, create an ombudsman to assist businesses who want to bring jobs to Chatham, create a new position of Environmental Services Director, fill a vacant environmental officer position and cross train individuals working within several divisions to be able to assist in monitoring environmental protections. More employees, not less, will be able to assist in protecting our environment. Finally, we recognize the importance of non-profit organizations to the county. We have committed more dollars to non-profit organizations than previous budgets.
The proposed budget allows all of these additions while reducing overall spending and maintaining property tax rates at current levels.
Brian Bock is chairman of the Chatham County Commissioners.
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