Council Meeting Summary including the Town Manager's Recommended FY17-18 Budget
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Would you like to view the Council video? (townofchapelhill.org/councilvideo - this should be ready for online viewing by Thursday afternoon).
Support for UNC Center for Civil Rights
The Council adopted a resolution of support for the UNC Center for Civil Rights. The Town’s Justice in Action Committee petitioned the Council to pass such a resolution at the April 24, 2017, business meeting. The University of North Carolina Board of Governors is considering a policy that would prevent the Center from undertaking any litigation. The UNC Center for Civil Rights, founded in 2001, has worked on matters of justice, prosperity and opportunity for all members of the community. Its mission is to use community based impact advocacy and legal education and scholarship to advance strategies that secure social, economic and environmental justice for low wealth, minority families and neighborhoods.
Funding for Botanical Garden Foundation Property Purchase
The Council approved providing $50,000 in matching funds toward the purchase of the Cochrane Property, which is adjacent to the protected open space network along Morgan Creek, and authorize the Town Manager to execute an agreement with the Botanical Garden Foundation, Inc.
Appointments to Town Boards and Commissions
The Council made a recommendation to the Orange County Board of Commissioners for an appointment of a Chapel Hill resident to the Orange County Animal Services Advisory Board. The Council also appointed applicants to vacancies on the Community Design Commission, the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board, the Housing Advisory Board, the Planning Commission, and the Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board.
2017-18 Town Manager’s Recommended Budget
No Reductions or Additions to Core Services; Commitment to Affordable Housing
The Council received Town Manager Roger Stancil’s recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018. For the fourth consecutive year, the proposed budget calls for no tax increase, thanks to prudent financial planning and expected growth in sales tax revenues.
The Town’s proposed $106.8 million budget for all funds represents a net increase of 1.5 percent to maintain existing service levels and address Council goals and priorities.
The proposed budget includes no changes in core services, which are highly valued as reflected in the biennial community survey. The proposal also includes resources to advance the Councils strategic priorities and accomplish adopted Goals.
In the budget highlights presented to Council, Town Manager Stancil said: “While we continue to experience positive growth in economy driven revenues, our property tax base, which is our largest revenue source, has not kept pace with our costs of providing services over the last eight years. Moreover, the Town now faces legislative threats on both the state and federal level. The state Legislature is considering actions, such as changing the distribution method of sales taxes that will reduce the Town’s revenues without providing options to make up the loss.”
What to Expect in Tax Bills under Proposed Budget
The Orange County County-wide revaluation of real property will go into effect for fiscal 2018 tax year. While individual taxpayers will see their tax bill change depending on the change in the valuation of their property, the Town is adopting a revenue neutral tax rate that is designed to generate the same revenue as the previous year. In other words, for the average tax-payer Town taxes will stay about the same. However, most taxpayers are not average and will see some change in their bill based on change in the assessed value of their property. The recommended revenue neutral tax rate is 50.80 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, reduced from 52.4 cents in the current year. The following table illustrates the calculation of Town taxes using the revenue neutral tax rate for a hypothetical average taxpayer.
The total amount Chapel Hill residents pay in property taxes also depends on the actions of the Board of Orange County Commissioners, which set the county tax rate, and the special schools tax for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. The property tax bill that Chapel Hill residents pay is divided among Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (54 percent), the Town of Chapel Hill (33 percent), and Orange County (13 percent). Residents who live in the Durham County portion of Chapel Hill see slightly different tax bills due to the actions of the Durham County Commissioners.
Commitment to Affordable Housing
The recommended budget continues the Town Council’s commitment to affordable housing programs with an amount equal to one cent on the tax rate or $688,395. In total, the Town spends about $5.2 million annually on affordable housing programs including management of 336 dwelling units in 13 public housing neighborhoods. The Housing Fund Budget reflects a 5.6 percent decrease in capital expenditures and an expected 12.4 percent decrease in subsidies from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The President’s preliminary budget proposes elimination of the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Program and a reduction in funds allocated for public housing maintenance and operations.
A $6 increase in the annual stormwater fee is included in the recommended budget. The increase will be used to fund operating costs and to pay for debt service on stormwater general obligation bonds that will be issued to fund priority infrastructure improvement projects including those identified in the Lower Booker Creek Subwatershed Study.
Planning for the Future
The proposed budget includes a number of initiatives to plan for the community’s future, including a rewrite of the Land Use Management Ordinance, beginning implementation of the West Rosemary Street Development Guide, developing the Mobility and Connectivity Plan, and considering the Ephesus-Fordham District Design Guidelines. Council committees are also reviewing the Town’s properties to make recommendations to the Council for future use of the Historic Town Hall, the American Legion Property, and a number of other Town properties and assets.
The Town believes that the excellent service that residents and visitors receive is dependent on attracting and retaining excellent employees. Town Manager Stancil is recommending a 2.5 percent salary adjustment. The adjustment will be based on the market rate (mid-point) within each pay grade so that employees currently making less than market will receive slightly larger percentage increases than those currently making more than the market. Additional pay adjustments are proposed to meet the Orange County Living Wage standards for 2018 and to implement the findings of a market survey for compensation primarily affecting Public Works and Transit employees. Anticipated is a 12.3 percent increase in the cost of employee medical insurance. The Town will continue its focus on improving employee health via the Wellness @ Work program, a partnership with the UNC Health Care Department of Family Medicine.
Budget Reflects Our Shared Vision
“The budget is the tool we use to allocate resources that move us toward a future based on our shared vision,” Town Manager Stancil said. “But, moreover, the budget is about choices. Choices dictated by factors both within and outside of our control. Our ability to understand, manage and anticipate these factors is greatly enhanced by our ability to build trust and respect through open communication and the participation of the public in our planning, goal setting and decision making processes.”
The Council sets its strategic priorities throughout the year, and especially in regular work session discussion and at the annual retreat in January. A complete list of budget-related materials and meetings are provided at www.townofchapelhill.org/budget.