The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved the county’s 2023-24 budget Tuesday. The proposed General Fund budget is $279.5 million, which represents a $21 million or 8% increase over the current fiscal year. The budget sets the property tax rate at 83.53 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The growth is funded through a combination of increased general fund revenues ($16.7 million), a 0.41 countywide property tax increase ($1 million), a 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.
The budget increases per pupil funding for Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to $5,346, an increase of $538 per student, the largest year-over-year increase in county history. Orange County continues to fund public schools’ current expense at the highest rate of any county in the state. The budget also 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.
Permanent county employees will receive a 6% pay increase, which is an effort to combat continued turnover. Orange County Manager Bonnie Hammersley proposed the increase because the county loses many employees to other local governments in the region that offer higher salaries.
The budget also recognizes $16.60 per hour as the living wage for permanent employees. These changes will go into effect July 1, 2023.
The board adopted a Capital Investment Plan that includes bringing forward $5 million for affordable housing originally scheduled for 2024-25. The CIP funds the full design of a Crisis/Diversion facility ($2.05 million) to divert individuals in behavioral health crisis from the criminal justice system and the Emergency Departments at UNC Hospitals. Preliminary planning for the project was completed in the current fiscal year.
The CIP includes several school and Durham Tech projects as well as funds for upgrades and improvements at Blackwood Farm Park, Cedar Grove Community Center and Fairview Park and $2.35 million for Lake Orange Dam rehabilitation.
State law requires the board to adopt a budget by June 30.
Orange County budget by the numbers
$279,505,528 – General Fund budget
$60,158,538 – Current Expense appropriation for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
$58,476,700 – Capital Investment Plan projects for FY 23-24
$42,784,038 – Current Expense appropriation for Orange County Schools
$21,322,130 – School-related debt services for both districts
$7,000,000 – Appropriated fund balance