PITTSBORO — According to a release from Chatham County, the Manager’s Office unveiled the proposed fiscal year 2022-23 budget of $164.9 million at the May 2 Board of Commissioners meeting. The proposed budget is based on a maintained tax rate of 66.5 cents. The county continues to prioritize support for education and focus on growth.
Copies of the proposed FY23 budget are available on the county website. Printed copies are available at the three county library branches.
The public has various opportunities to share their feedback with the Board of Commissioners.
Two public hearings:
Monday, May 16, at 6 p.m. at the Chatham County Historic Courthouse, 9 Hillsboro St., second floor courtroom, Pittsboro.
Tuesday, May 17, at 6 p.m. at Wren Memorial Library, 500 N. Second Ave., Siler City.
Individuals may 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.
“This is our third consecutive budget that we began preparations under the shadow of the continued pandemic; however as the budget process unfolded, the county began to turn a corner towards a return to relative normalcy,” said Chatham County Manager Dan LaMontagne. “Locally, we continue to experience rapid development, including the recent announcement that electric vehicle manufacturer VinFast will be locating its U.S. production facility at the Triangle Innovation Point (TIP) East megasite in Moncure.”
“We are hopeful for the future and believe that Chatham County is well positioned for continued success; we are recommending a budget that will guide us through the next fiscal year and position Chatham County to welcome the future,” added 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. Additionally, you will see that the county is enhancing and expanding services in order to meet the needs of our growing population.”
Major revenue highlights
The county property tax rate is recommended to remain the same at 66.5 cents per $100 of valuation.
Revenue from Ad Valorem taxes is projected to increase by 6.1 percent.
Sales tax revenue is projected to increase by 24 percent over the FY 2022 budgeted amount, due to the continued strong sales tax collections that the county is seeing and projecting for continued modest growth.
Revenue from permits and fees is projected to increase 14.8 percent from the current year budget.
Register of Deeds excise tax revenue is projected to increase 50 percent from the current year budget.
Consistent with the Board of Commissioners Financial Policy, appropriated fund balance in the General Fund, Water, and Solid Waste and Recycling are earmarked for one-time and capital expense items.
For a detailed list of General Fund revenue, the public may refer to the General Fund section of the budget document.
The proposed budget prioritizes the needs for Chatham County Schools:
Additional $105,000 to support the opening of the new Central Services building and Chatham Reads literacy program.
Additional $820,000 to implement a new hybrid model for the teacher supplement; implementation of the new model also includes a guaranteed minimum increase of $250 for all teachers’ supplements.
Of the non-school budget items, a major recommendation is the addition of more than 72 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, Emergency Communications, Emergency Management, Solid Waste and Recycling, Environmental Health, Watershed Protection, Social Services, Aging, Tax Administration, Utilities, Facilities, Parks and Recreation, Court Services, and the Animal Services division of the sheriff's office.
Other major new items included in the proposed budget include:
The Solid Waste enterprise fund will undergo a significant transition during FY2023. For many years, the collection center staffing has been maintained via a contract for services. Solid Waste staff have negotiated with the current vendor to continue to provide service for the first quarter of the fiscal year (through Sept. 30) at which time collection center staffing will move “in house” and be operated by county employees located within the Solid Waste enterprise fund. The transition from a vendor to county staff does not require any increases to the Solid Waste fee for FY 2023.
An additional $137,885 is recommended for the Management Information Services (MIS) department to implement enhanced data governance policies and technological resources. This will allow MIS to work with industry leaders to develop and implement best practice models to protect the organization, and its data, from known and unknown risks. The goal of this data governance strategy is to serve Chatham County well into the future while also addressing current data needs.
An additional $200,000 is recommended for the implementation of countywide LiDAR for Chatham County. This project will update the current county LiDAR (last updated as part of a state LiDAR acquisition project in 2015) and will allow for more frequent data updates. Given the rapid development that is occurring within the county, having GIS mapping data that is updated more frequently can help track adherence to the development objectives outlined in the comprehensive plan.
A turf maintenance preventative management plan for the county’s playing fields is recommended to be included, at a cost of $42,455. This plan will allow for the various playing fields at county parks to be utilized more frequently and will also minimize the wear and tear on the respective fields.
The recommended budget includes a 2-percent increase in the county contribution to the health plan and a 7-percent pay increase for employee pay raises. A 0.5-percent increase in the county’s 401(k) contribution for general government employees is recommended. This will increase the contribution rate for general government employees to 5 percent, which is the same as the current law enforcement employee contribution amount.
“While many expenses are necessary to continue movement toward our goals, competitive salaries and benefits 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:
Residential two bedrooms — increase from $130 to $150.
Residential three bedrooms — increase from $200 to $225.
Residential four bedrooms — increase from $275 to $300.
Residential five bedrooms — increase from $330 to $350.
Residential six-plus bedrooms — increase from $400 to $400 plus additional $50 for each bedroom above six.
Pool permit (seasonal) — increase from $175 to $200.
Senior Games — $10 early registration, $15 normal/standard, $5 bag lunch.
Facility rental (dance) — $120/week.
Sitter background checks — $18.
Medical transport — $2 each way.
Chatham County is served by 11 fire departments that are funded through separate property taxes collected by the county. One department has requested an increase in their tax rate. Fire department highlights include:
The North Chatham Fire Department proposed a 1-cent increase. The increase would bring their tax rate to 11.8 cents, which is 3.2 cents below the maximum 15 cents allowed by General Statute. This increase would be used to fund an additional three full-time firefighters and one part-time firefighter in addition to the required equipment and personal protective gear for the new staff and additional apparatuses. Since the North Chatham Fire Department also services the Bells Annex fire district, the requested tax rate increase is for both the North Chatham and Bells Annex districts.
The City of Durham Fire Department, which provides service for the Parkwood district, is requesting an increase of their contract payment pursuant to the standing Interlocal Agreement.
The Board of Commissioners will have a series of work sessions on the budget after the public hearings. State law requires the board to approve the budget no later than June 30.
This article originally appeared on The Courier-Tribune: Chatham County proposed 2022-23 budget: Investing in education, growth