Hillsborough taxes to stay the same, but water, sewer customers will pay more next year

How Hillsborough planned its 2019-20 budget

Hillsborough budget director Emily Bradford, Town Manager Eric Peterson and other town staff explain how the budget is drafted every year to meet local wants and needs.
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Hillsborough budget director Emily Bradford, Town Manager Eric Peterson and other town staff explain how the budget is drafted every year to meet local wants and needs.

A $22 million proposed budget would avoid raising the town’s property tax rate for the seventh year.

Hillsborough Town Manager Eric Peterson’s proposed fiscal year 2019-20 budget is roughly $600,000 less than the town’s current 2018-19 budget, which ends June 30. The proposed budget, he said in a news release, cuts both the town’s operating expenses and its water and sewer expenses.

However, water and sewer fees will continue to climb to help pay for the $14.5 million West Fork on the Eno reservoir expansion. The town increased water fees last year by 9.25% and sewer fees by 7.5%, and a third increase in both fees is expected next year.

The proposed 2019-20 rate means in-town water customers would pay $23.15 a month for up to 2,500 gallons of water and $34.22 for monthly sewer service. Out-of-town customers would pay $45.15 for water and $66.72 for sewer services each month.

The Hillsborough Town Board will hold a budget work session and public hearing on Tuesday, May 28. The budget could be adopted June 10.

Eric Peterson
Eric Peterson

In his budget message, Peterson said the town tried to strike a balance between wants and needs at a time when over a thousand new homes are being built and more commercial development is on the horizon.

“The pressure of new development bringing more residents, businesses, and visitors to Hillsborough tests the strategy of assembling a budget that meets current and future demands,” Peterson said.

Mayor Tom Stevens also noted the tight budget. It’s not surprising, he said in the news release.

“Our longstanding budget principles — take care of what we have, invest strategically for the future and keep rate impact on citizens as low as we can — are taken very seriously,” Stevens said. “We can’t do everything we’d like, but I believe our budget represents the value of supporting town staff to do their work well and do it right. In the long run, that delivers the best value for the citizens we serve.”

The town’s tax rate would remain 62 cents per $100 in assessed property value. The owner of a $300,000 property would continue to pay a town tax bill of $1,860 a year, plus county taxes, which could go up next year.

Hillsborough already has the county’s highest property tax rate, even with the increases proposed for Carrboro and Chapel Hill, largely to support affordable housing projects. Chapel Hill’s Town Council is considering a 1.6-cent increase in that town’s property tax rate. Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen is considering a half-cent property tax rate increase.

At the county level, the commissioners could decide between a 1.5-cent increase now — with more increases possible in the next few years — or a 5.8-cent increase that would let the county bank extra money for future debt payments.

The 1.5-cent increase would make the county tax rate 86.54 cents per $100 in property value. The owner of a $300,000 home would pay a $2,596.20 county tax bill, roughly $45 more than the current bill.

Other Hillsborough budget highlights include:

$315,000 to set a $15 minimum wage for all town employees, plus $45,000 to ensure employees are paid close to the market rate for their jobs

$360,500 to repave 5% of the town’s streets; $175,000 of that would be paid using the state’s gas tax revenues.

$127,000 to move the Public Works Department to the town’s facility on N.C. 86 North. The move delays the construction of a new, $3 million public works facility.

$31,000 to make the town’s public information officer a full-time position, increase the hours for a part-time fire inspector and provide the inspector with a work vehicle

Annual stormwater utility fees would remain $75 for residential land and between $150 and $12,900 for non-residential land, depending on the amount of driveways, roofs and other impervious surfaces. The money helps meet state Falls Lake watershed requirements and pays for the town’s stormwater and drainage system maintenance.

What’s next

The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners will hold a budget workshop and public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, in the Town Hall Annex, 105 E. Corbin St. Public comments also can be submitted to Hillsborough Budget Director Emily Bradford by email at Emily.Bradford@hillsboroughnc.gov or by phone at 919-296-9427.

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.