Orange County

Carrboro manager proposes slight tax increase, first in eight years

Town Manager David Andrews has proposed a slight increase in Carrboro’s property tax – the first in eight years – to help catch up with inflation.

Andrews’ proposed $36 million budget recommends a tax rate of 58.94 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

That is the same numerical rate the town has had since 2009, but it is 3 percent higher than the “revenue-neutral” rate of 57.17 cents per $100. The revenue-neutral rate is the rate that would generate the same amount of property-tax revenue after the recent county-wide revaluation.

“The town has not increased its property tax rate in in over seven years; the tax rate has not kept pace with inflation.,” Finance Director Arche McAdoo explained. “Keeping the tax rate at 58.94 will allow these revenues to begin to catch up with inflation.”

Despite the same numerical tax rate, individual property owners could see higher or lower bills, depending on how their new tax value compares with the countywide average change.

A homeowner with property now valued at $250,000, for example, would pay $1,473.50 in town taxes, in addition to county and city school district taxes.

While property taxes still make up the bulk of the town’s revenue, sales-tax revenues are up $1 million over the last eight years, an indicator of solid growth, Andrews told the board.

Mayor Lydia Lavelle agreed.

“I think it reflects a lot of the decision making we’ve made and the investments we’ve made downtown,” she said.

Among the top priorities in next year’s budget, officials want to hire a manager to help create and oversee the town’s proposed stormwater fund.

“We are looking at the implementation of the stormwater utility on July 1,” Andrews said. “We feel strongly as staff that we need to get a manager on board to make some real progress.”

Once established, the stormwater utility will charge homeowners an annual fee to fund stormwater infrastructure improvements in neighborhoods prone to flooding.

Next year’s budget continues to invest in the town’s affordable housing fund at a level equal to one penny on the property tax rate, approximately $224,453.

Funding for outside agencies that provide human services is up to $300,000, double what it was five years ago, Andrews said.

“I’m happy to say we’ve been able to double the human services grants,” he told the board. “I think on a per-capita basis, Carrboro is one of the highest, if not the highest, in Orange County for contributions to human services funding.”

The spending plan also includes funding for police body cameras, new radios for emergency personnel, and a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for town employees. Future pay raises will be determined after the town conducts an employee classification study to examine wages.

At the urging of the Board of Aldermen, the manager and finance director are scaling back the town’s capital improvements plan, meant to map out long-term spending on big-ticket items.

Board members rejected a prior plan that called for investing $31 million in town buildings.

“We’ve gone back and looked at it, we think we’re comfortable with $10 million,” Andrews said. Town staff will assess how best to prioritize that spending over the next five to seven years. The aldermen will review the revised plan in June.

Lavelle said the budget, as recommended, meets a variety of town goals.

“I think the budget looks great,” she said. “We’re able to address a lot of concerns of our town this year, from flooding to sidewalks to employee cost of living. It’s a marvel how it’s come together.”

The board will hold a budget work session on May 9, a public hearing on May 23, and vote to adopt the budget in June.

Elizabeth Friend:

What’s next

The board will hold a budget work session on May 9, a public hearing on May 23, and vote to adopt the budget in June.