Pittsboro, NC – The Chatham County Manager’s Office unveiled the proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget of $149.9 million at the May 3, 2021, meeting of the Board of Commissioners. The proposed budget is based on an adjusted tax rate of 66.5 cents, down 0.50 cents.
The Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 17th. There are three ways the public can participate. Residents may give their comments in person at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center at 1192 US 64 Business West, Pittsboro or in person at Wren Memorial Library at 500 North Second Avenue, Siler City. Residents may also give their comments virtually by registering for the GoToWebinar and signing up to speak online through the public input form that will be available May 10th. Individuals will have three minutes to speak and are asked to submit comments in writing to the Clerk to the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org so that all comments can be included in the official record.
Copies of the proposed FY22 budget are available on the county website. Printed copies will be at the three county library branches by the end of May 4th.
“For several years, we have discussed the need of being properly prepared for growth. As a county, we are now at the point that the rapid growth and development we have long expected is happening,” said Chatham County Manager Dan LaMontagne. “Throughout this budget, you will see that we are focused on ensuring that the development that is occurring is well monitored and aligns with the long-term vision that Plan Chatham has laid out for Chatham County.”
“Last year we faced many uncertainties during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we projected our revenue cautiously while making careful choices regarding expenditures,” added LaMontagne. “This year we believe that our careful planning positioned the county well to recover from the economic downturn. Revenues for the current FY 2020-21 fiscal year are expected to meet or exceed budget, and overall revenue for FY 2021-22 are projected to increase. April marked Chatham County’s 250th anniversary. We are looking back with gratitude, and we are looking ahead with anticipation and confidence.”
With a revenue neutral property tax rate of 62.29 cents per $100 of valuation, the county property tax rate is recommended to decrease by ½ a cent from 67 cents per $100 of valuation to 66.5 cents. The recommended tax rate, in part, seeks to account for increased service demands across multiple agencies and departments within the General Fund. The revaluation of county property confirmed a robust real estate market in Chatham County that reflects demand outpacing supply of improved property, as well as development growth. Real property values are projected to increase 14% over the FY 2021 budgeted amount for FY 2022, primarily due to residential development.
Property values are projected to increase 14%, but the property tax rate will only drop by less than 1%.
Most Chatham residents can expect a larger property tax bill this year.
The proposed budget fully 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 supplement to keep Chatham schools competitive with surrounding school system. The proposed budget also includes an additional $5.2M in debt service to cover payments for the new high school.
Of the non-school budget items, a major recommendation is the addition of 31 new positions. “We can no longer delay responding to the increased demand in service that accompanies growth,” said LaMontagne. New positions are recommended in Building Inspections, Central Permitting, Register of Deeds, Watershed Protection, Management and Information Systems (MIS), Facilities, Social Services, Parks and Recreation, Telecommunications, Pre-trial Release, and in the Animal Services, Detention Center, and Law Enforcement divisions of the Sheriff’s Office.
The county’s focus on sustainability is demonstrated in the creation of a new Sustainability Department that includes funding for electric vehicle charging stations and the addition of solar panels to existing county buildings. LaMontagne explained that “Chatham County has always valued our natural environment and resources, and this is reflected in our operations, policies, and practices. With the commitment and support of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, the recommended budget upholds this standard by advancing additional measures to further ensure sustainable operations.”
As directed by the Board of Commissioners, revenue from Article 46 sales tax is directed to the school budget and to affordable housing, parks and recreation, and agricultural preservation.
Other major new items included in the proposed budget include:
· $81,531 to implement off-site backup storage data backups and a disaster recovery plan for the county network. This will allow MIS to have safe and consistent backups to allow for quicker restoration of the county network in the event another network disruption happens in the future.
An additional $28,000 for the revision of the Farmland Preservation and Open Space Plan. This work will be conducted by Cooperative Extension and Soil and Water Conservation District.The walking trail at Southwest District Park will be extended to provide an additional ½ mile of trail, at a cost of $41,500.
· An allocation of $75,000 will go to the Chatham Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to provide financial assistance to small businesses County wide who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recommended budget also includes a 2% increase in the county contribution to the health plan and a 3% pay increase for employee pay raises. Additionally, a half-year implementation of the adjustments recommended by the FY 2021 salary study is included. “While many expenses are necessary to continue movement toward our goals, competitive salaries are essential to maintaining and attracting talented, professional staff,” LaMontagne said. “This is a vital investment to handle the coming growth.”
The proposed budget includes some changes in county fees to cover specific services:
Building Inspections: Set a minimum fee for single-family homes and increase the basic permit fee and the reinspection fee to cover cost of inspections.Utilities: Increase the fees to cover the time and materials cost of performing Fire Flow testing, Meter Set, Standard ¾” tap, Hydrostatic Pressure Test and Bacteriological Sampling on new construction.
Chatham County is served by 11 fire departments that are funded through separate property taxes collected by the county. Three fire departments have requested an increase in their tax rate.
The Bennett Fire Department proposed a two-cent increase. The increase would bring their tax rate to 11 cents, which is four cents below the maximum 15 cents allowed by General Statute. This increase would be used to add one part-time employee to assist with the department’s upcoming ISO rating inspection and to increase their level of service provided to the citizens of their district.The Pittsboro Fire Department proposed a 0.4 cent increase for the Circle City fire district. This increase would bring their tax rate to 12.65 cents, which is 2.35 cents below the maximum 15 cents allowed by General Statute. This increase would be used to fund the updating/renovation of all three fire stations, add three full time shift personnel, one administrative assistant, and cover increased audit and attorney fees.The Silk Hope Fire Department proposed a 0.4 cent increase. This increase would bring their tax rate to 8.25 cents, which is 6.75 cents below the maximum 15 cents allowed by General Statute. This increase would be used for salary increases and the addition of one part-time employee.
The Board of Commissioners will have a series of work sessions on the budget after the public hearings. State law requires them to approve the budget no later than June 30th.