PITTSBORO, NC – At a Board of Commissioners meeting on May 3, the Chatham County Manager’s Office unveiled the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021-22 of $ 149.9 million. The proposed budget is based on an adjusted tax rate of 66.5 cents (minus 50 cents) and focuses on the district’s school priorities and preparations for growth.
Dan LaMontagne, Chatham county manager, said the department had been discussing the need for properly prepared growth over several years.
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“As a county, we are now at the point where the rapid growth and development that we have long anticipated will take place,” said Dan LaMontagne, Chatham County Manager. What is happening is well monitored and is in line with the long-term vision that is Chatham has established plan for Chatham County. “
Due to the uncertainties of COVID over the past year, the department cautiously forecast its earnings and made careful decisions about spending. LaMontagne believes their careful planning has enabled the county to recover from economic decline.
Revenue for the current 2020-21 fiscal year is expected to meet or exceed budget, and total revenue for the 2021-22 fiscal year is expected to increase.
LaMontagne recommends lowering the county property tax rate by half a cent, from 67 cents per $ 100 valuation to 66.5 cents. The recommended tax rate is intended to take account of the increased service requirements of several agencies and departments of the General Fund.
The county real estate revaluation confirmed a resilient real estate market in Chatham County, reflecting demand that is outpacing supply of improved real estate and development growth. A 14% increase in property values is forecast for the 2021 financial year, which is mainly due to residential developments.
The proposed budget also funds the Chatham County Schools request for an additional $ 2.4 million to support the opening of Seaforth High School in September and an additional $ 180,000 for the teacher allowance to help keep Chatham Schools competitive with the surrounding school system .
The proposed budget also includes an additional $ 5.2 million debt service to cover the new payments for the high school.
An important recommendation for the out-of-school budget items is the addition of 31 new posts. LaMontagne said the department could no longer delay responding to the increased demand for services that came with its growth.
“New positions are recommended in building inspection, central approval, deed registration, water catchment protection, management and information systems, facilities, social services, parks and recreation, telecommunications, pre-trial release, as well as in animal services, detention center and law enforcement departments of the sheriff’s office.”
The county continues to focus on sustainability and the creation of a new sustainability department, including funding for electric vehicle charging stations and adding solar panels to existing county buildings.
“Chatham County has always valued our natural environment and resources, and this is reflected in our operations, policies and practices,” said LaMontagne. “With the dedication and support of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, the recommended budget maintains this standard and encourages additional measures to further ensure sustainable operations.”
According to the instructions of the Board of Commissioners, Article 46 sales tax revenue goes into the school budget and into affordable housing, parks and recreational facilities, as well as into the maintenance of agriculture.
Other important new items in the proposed budget are:
- $ 81,531 to implement external backup backups and a disaster recovery plan for the county network. This allows MIS to have secure and consistent backups to enable faster recovery of the county network in the event of another network failure in the future.
- Another $ 28,000 for the revision of the Farmland Preservation and Open Space Plan. This work is being carried out by the Cooperative Extension and the Soil and Water Conservation District.
- The Southwest District Park hiking trail is being expanded to provide an additional half a mile of hiking trail priced at $ 41,500.
- A $ 75,000 allocation will go to Chatham Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to provide financial assistance to small businesses across the county that have been negatively impacted by the COVID19 pandemic.
The recommended budget also includes a 2% increase in the county’s contribution to the health plan and a 3% increase in salary increases for employees. It also includes a six-monthly implementation of the adjustments recommended in the salary study for the 2021 financial year.
“While it will take a lot of expense to continue the movement towards our goals, competitive salaries are essential to retain and attract talented, professional employees,” said LaMontagne. “This is an important investment to manage the growth to come.”
The proposed budget includes some changes to the district fees to cover certain services:
- Building Inspections: Set a minimum single-family home fee, and increase the base approval fee and re-inspection fee to cover the cost of inspections.
- Utilities: Increase fees to cover the time and material costs of performing fire flow tests, gauges, standard faucet, hydrostatic pressure test, and bacteriological sampling on new builds.
Chatham County is also served by 11 fire departments that are funded by separate property taxes levied by the county. Three fire departments have applied for an increase in their tax rate.
- The Bennett Fire Department suggested an increase of two cents. The increase would bring their tax rate to 11 cents, which is four cents below the 15 cents permitted under general law. This increase would add a part-time worker to assist with the department’s upcoming ISO assessment and increase the level of service to the citizens of their district.
- The Pittsboro Fire Department proposed a 0.4 cents increase in the Circle City Fire Department. This increase would bring their tax rate to 12.65 cents, which is 2.35 cents below the 15 cents allowed under the General Law. This increase would be used to fund the upgrade / renovation of all three fire stations, add three full-time shift workers and an administrative assistant, and cover the increased exam and attorney fees.
- The Silk Hope Fire Department suggested an increase of 0.4 cents. This increase would bring their tax rate to 8.25 cents, which is 6.75 cents below the general law maximum of 15 cents. This increase would be used for salary increases and the addition of a part-time worker.
The Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget on Monday, May 17th at 6:00 p.m.
There are three ways the public can participate, including personal commentary at the Chatham County’s Agriculture and Conference Center or in person at the Wren Memorial Library, and virtual commentary by registering for the GoToWebinar and logging in to view the public contributions online to speak form that will be available on May 10th.
Individuals have three minutes to speak and are asked to send written comments to the case officer at [email protected] so that all comments can be included in the official minutes.
The Committee of Commissioners will hold a series of working meetings on the budget following the public hearings. Under state law, they must approve the budget by June 30th at the latest.
Petruce Jean-Charles is a reporter for the Government Guard. They are interested in what is going on in the community and are open to tips on people, companies and topics. Contact Petruce at [email protected] and follow @PetruceKetsia on Twitter.