The Orange County Board of Commissioners adopted its 2019-20 budget Tuesday night. The budget sets the countywide property tax rate at 86.79 cents, an increase of 1.75 cents from the current fiscal year. It marks only the third countywide property tax increase in the past 11 years for county residents.
Revenue from the property tax increase will pay additional costs related to debt service and county operations and to create a fund for projects that will address the issue of climate change.
The adopted General Fund budget of $237,121,822 was approved by the board on a vote of 6-1.
The commissioners appropriated $113,480,859 to the two school districts, including $17.8 million in school-related debt service, $3 million in deferred maintenance funding and $3.6 million to provide School Resource Officers in every middle and high school and School Nurses in every elementary, middle and high school. Total funding for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools increased by 4.0 percent from the current year.
During budget deliberations, the Board of Commissioners added $250,000 to the county contribution to public school funding, increasing the per pupil contribution to $4,352.25 per student, which is one of the highest in the state and an increase of $187.25 per pupil from 2018-19.
“The budget achieves the Board of Commissioners’ primary goals by investing in public education, affordable housing and our employees, who deliver critical services to our residents every day,” said Orange County Chair Penny Rich.
The budget includes significant investments in public safety with the addition of five new deputies and the creation of a position in the Criminal Justice Resource Department to aid justice-involved residents with driver’s license and other legal restoration matters. The Restoration Legal Counsel position will expand and enhance the efforts already underway by the District Attorney and judicial stakeholders to assist eligible individuals that have driver’s license suspensions based on an inability to pay traffic court debt.
The budget includes a 2% across-the-board pay raise for county employees and sets minimum salary levels for non-temporary and temporary employees consistent with the Orange County Living Wage Formula.
The budget includes slight increases in three of the county’s 11 fire districts – a half-penny increase in Damascus and Southern Triangle and a full penny for White Cross.
In addition to the budget, the board adopted a $48,050,096 Capital Improvement Plan for 2019-20, which includes $20 million from the 2016 School Bond as well as funding county capital projects.
The 1.75 cents increase means the owner of a home valued at $200,000 will pay an additional $35 in property taxes.
By the numbers
- $237,121,822 – The General Fund budget.
- 1.75 – Increase in cents in countywide property tax rate.
- 4,352.25 – Dollars spent per pupil in local current expense funding, an increase of $187.25 per student from last year.
- 1,490,181 – Dollars appropriated to Outside Agencies, exceeding the county’s target of 1.2% of general fund expenditures, not including education spending.