Orange County Manager Bonnie Hammersley unveiled her budget proposal for FY 2023-24 during the May 2 Board of County Commissioners Business Meeting.
The proposed General Fund budget is $279.2 million, which represents a $21 million or 8% increase over the current fiscal year.
The increase is funded through a combination of increased general fund revenues ($16.7 million), a 0.46 countywide property tax increase ($1 million), a judicious fund balance appropriation ($7 million) based on general fund outcomes over the past two years and by drawing down funds from the County Capital Reserve to finance one‐time expenses.
Hammersley said her spending plan focuses on four primary goals:
- Sustain and improve service levels
- Retain the county workforce
- Support public schools
- Preserve financial stability
Hammersley said the county has experienced significant employee turnover in recent years and that many departments are having difficulty recruiting and retaining experienced workers. Her budget includes a 6% increase in pay for county employees to increase the county’s ability to attract new employees while retaining existing workers.
The budget continues the board’s commitment to public schools by increasing the per pupil funding for Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to $5,346, an increase of $538 per student. In addition, her budget includes a 1.5-cent increase in the CHCCS special district tax.
The Budget improves human services to vulnerable residents. It recommends creating a pilot mobile crisis response unit in cooperation with the Town of Chapel Hill to respond to behavioral health crises in lieu of a law enforcement response and funding a visitation center where Social Services involved youth can visit with their families in a home environment.
The budget increases the countywide tax rate by 0.46 cents from 83.12 cents to 83.58 cents per $100 of value. This tax rate increase generates $1,038,676 in new revenue to fund the continuation needs of County and School operations. The annual tax impact of this rate increase on a home valued at $400,000 is $18.40.
- Animal Services recommends eliminating the pet licensing fee, which will reduce revenues by $148,600. The department made the recommendation because it estimated more than three-quarters of pets in Orange County were not licensed, the flat fee was regressive, there was no clear benefit to animal welfare in the county and the fee was an administrative burden to collect, requiring almost a fulltime employee to manage the program.
- The DEAPR Budget contains one time funding ($70,000) for a new Orange County Bike, Pedestrian, and Trail Plan to analyze existing and future trail, bicycle and pedestrian needs.
- Sportsplex revenues have rebounded to outpace pre‐pandemic levels. Total revenues are expected to offset operating expenses of $4,438,687.
- Total revenue in the Register of Deeds Office is projected to be down $532,382 due to a significant decrease in number of transactions likely caused by higher interest rates on home loans.
Public hearings are scheduled for May 9 and June 1 at the Whitted Building in Hillsborough. The Board of Commissioners will hold four work sessions to review departmental requests.
Final adoption is scheduled for June 20. State law requires the board to adopt a budget by June 30.