Chatham County

New budget, same tax bill for most Chatham County taxpayers

The average Chatham County taxpayer will pay the same county property tax bill under the budget approved Monday night.

The county commissioners set the tax rate at 62.81 cents per $100 of assessed property value, down 0.57 cents to remain revenue neutral following the recent countywide property revaluation. The revenue-neutral rate is the tax rate designed to bring in the same revenue as before.

The adopted tax rate means the owner of a house now valued at $200,000 house will pay $1,256.20 in county taxes. Individual bills will reflect whether property owners’ tax values increased more or less than the countywide average.

The $110.9 million spending plan includes nearly $600,000 in additional revenue added to the budget in May. County staffers say that’s because fewer property owners appealed their 2017 revaluations than anticipated. About $124 million in value is under appeal, and the county is not counting on any of it in the budget.

“Because of the careful, conservative nature of our budgeting, we ended up with a little extra we could allocate,” said Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Diana Hales.

The approved 2017-2018 budget adds money for a school resource officer for Northwood High School, a school health and wellness instructor, a county budget analyst, and a part-time veterans’ services officer.

“The budget reflects the board’s goals and Chatham’s values,” said Chairman Jim Crawford. “I am especially pleased that we could hire a veterans’ services officer.”

According to the County Manager’s Office, 9 percent of Chatham residents are veterans. That’s one of the highest veteran populations in the region, trailing only behind Moore County and Harnett counties.

While surrounding counties offer locally funded veterans’ services departments, Chatham until now has not, prompting veterans to seek services in other areas after cuts to state funding reduced visits from the state veterans’ services officer down to twice a month.

The county will also invest $28,611 in a new misdemeanor diversion program, designed to help young, first-time offenders avoid criminal charges by completing an educational program that includes life skill training, stress management and drug education.

The budget sets aside $450,000 to help the Town of Pittsboro buy land for a future town hall complex downtown. County officials expect to rent space in the complex at a reduced rate in return for the initial investment.

Under the new budget school spending increases 5 percent, by $1.5 million. Chatham County teachers will see a boost in pay, as commissioners allocated an additional $834,000 to increase the local salary supplement in a bid to stay competitive with surrounding districts.

In other business

Commissioners also on Monday:

▪ Set a public hearing for July 17 to consider extending the county’s moratorium on oil and natural gas development while planners draft a conditional use ordinance to help protect water quality in the region. The temporary moratorium is set to expire in August.

▪ Approved a resolution supporting a state and national goal of switching to 100 percent renewable or carbon-free energy sources by 2050.

▪ Heard from residents near Polks Landing Road, where developers want to rezone 27.5 acres along U.S. 15-501 for a shopping center anchored by a grocery store. Opponents say it will harm their quiet neighborhood and water quality. They also note the site is across from another grocery and just down the road from two others. Morgan Property Group, which submitted the plan, said retail analysis suggests residential growth along the U.S. 15-501 corridor between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro will likely support more retail options. The plan will head to the County Planning Board for review.