Commissioners approve fiscal year 2023 Chatham County budget

Pittsboro, NC –

On June 21, 2022, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the county budget for fiscal year 2022-23. The $164.9 million budget is based on a maintained tax rate of 66.5 cents. The budget will allow the county to continue prioritizing support for education and focus on growth.

photo by Jon Tyson

“We continue to experience rapid development, including the recent announcement that electric vehicle manufacturer VinFast will be locating its US production facility at the Triangle Innovation Point (TIP) East megasite in Moncure,” said Chatham County Manager Dan LaMontagne. “Throughout this budget, residents will see that we are focused on ensuring that the county’s development is well-monitored and aligns with the long-term vision that Plan Chatham has laid out for Chatham County. Additionally, this budget allows us to enhance and expand services in order to meet the needs of our growing population.”

Major Revenue Highlights:

·         The county property tax rate is approved to remain the same at 66.5 cents per $100 of valuation.

·         Revenue from Ad Valorem taxes is projected to increase by 6.1%.

·         Sales tax revenue is projected to increase by 24% over the FY 2022 budgeted amount, this is due to the continued strong sales tax collections that the County is seeing and projecting for continued modest growth.

·         Revenue from permits and fees is projected to increase 14.8% from the current year budget.

·         Register of Deeds excise tax revenue is projected to increase 50% from the current year budget. 

·         Consistent with the Board of Commissioners Financial Policy, appropriated fund balance in the General Fund, Water, and Solid Waste & Recycling are earmarked for one-time and capital expense items.

·         For a detailed list of General Fund revenue, the public may refer to the General Fund section of the budget document.

The budget prioritizes the needs for Chatham County Schools:

  • Additional $105,000 to support the opening of the new Central Services building and Chatham Reads literacy program.
  • Additional $820,000 to implement a new hybrid model for the teacher supplement; implementation of the new model also includes a guaranteed minimum increase of $250 for all teachers’ supplements.

Of the non-school budget items, a major addition is that of more than 72 new positions. “We can no longer delay responding to the increased demand in service that accompanies growth,” said LaMontagne. The budget allows for new positions in Building Inspections, Emergency Communications, Emergency Management, Solid Waste and Recycling, Environmental Health, Watershed Protection, Social Services, Aging, Tax Administration, Utilities, Facilities, Parks and Recreation, Court Services, and in the Animal Services division of the Sheriff’s Office.

Other major new items included in the budget:

·         The Solid Waste enterprise fund will undergo a significant transition during FY 2023. For many years, the collection center staffing has been maintained via a contract for services. Solid Waste staff have negotiated with the current vendor to continue to provide service for the 1st quarter of the fiscal year (through September 30) at which time, collection center staffing will move “in-house” and be operated by County employees located within the Solid Waste enterprise fund. The transition from a vendor to County staff does not require any increases to the Solid Waste fee for FY 2023.

·         An additional $137,885 is approved for the Management Information Services (MIS) department to implement enhanced data governance policies and technological resources. This will allow MIS to work with industry leaders to develop and implement best practice models to protect the organization, and its data, from known and unknown risks. The goal of this data governance strategy is to serve Chatham County well into the future while also addressig current data needs.

·         An additional $200,000 is approved for the implementation of countywide LiDAR for Chatham County. This project will update the current county LiDAR (last updated as part of a state LiDAR acquisition project in 2015) and will allow for more frequent data updates. Given the rapid development that is occurring within the County, having GIS mapping data that is updated more frequently can help track adherence to the development objectives outlined in the comprehensive plan.

·         A turf maintenance preventative management plan for the County’s playing fields is included, at a cost of $42,455. This plan will allow for the various playing fields at County parks to be utilized more frequently and will also minimize the wear and tear on the respective fields.

The budget includes a 2% increase in the County contribution to the health plan and a 7% pay increase for employee pay raises. A 0.5% increase in the County’s 401(k) contribution for general government employees is approved. This will increase the contribution rate for general government employees to 5%, which is the same as the current law enforcement employee contribution amount.

“We are grateful for all the work of our dedicated staff,” added Chatham Commission chairman Karen Howard. “The Board wanted to make sure that our employees are adequately compensated to lessen the burden of national cost of living challenges as well as keep their salaries competitive with surrounding communities. It is vital that we are able to retain our excellent staff and attract new and talented members to the county, so we can continue to make Chatham County the best in North Carolina.”

The budget includes some changes in county fees to cover specific services:

Environmental Health

  • Improvement Permits:
  • Residential 2 bedrooms – increase from $130 to $150
  • Residential 3 bedrooms – increase from $200 to $225
  • Residential 4 bedrooms – increase from $275 to $300
  • Residential 5 bedrooms – increase from $330 to $350
  • Residential 6+ bedrooms – increase from $400 to $400 plus additional $50 for each bedroom above 6
  • Pool Permit (Seasonal) – increase from $175 to $200

Aging Fees

  • Senior Games – $10 early registration, $15 normal/standard, $5 bag lunch
  • Facility rental (Dance) – $120/week
  • Sitter background checks – $18
  • Medical Transport – $2 each way

Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center

  • Tractor Rental fee – $75

Chatham County is served by 11 fire departments that are funded through separate property taxes collected by the county. One department received approval for an increase in their tax rate. Fire department highlights include:

  • A one (1) cent increase was approved for the North Chatham Fire Department. The increase will bring their tax rate to 11.8 cents, which is 3.2 cents below the maximum 15 cents allowed by General Statute. This increase will be used to fund an additional 3 full-time firefighters and 1 part-time firefighter in addition to the required equipment and personal protective gear for the new staff and additional apparatuses. Since the North Chatham Fire Department also services the Bells Annex fire district, the tax rate increase is for both the North Chatham and Bells Annex districts.
  • The City of Durham Fire Department, which provides service for the Parkwood district, will receive an increase of their contract payment pursuant to the standing Interlocal Agreement. 

The Chatham County budget document for FY 2022-23 is available on the Annual County Budget section of the county website.