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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill Town Council approves longer library hours, higher taxes

Residents can expect higher municipal taxes and expanded library hours as Chapel Hill’s new budget goes into effect.

On Monday, the Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously approved town manager Roger Stancil’s $94 million proposed budget for 2013-14.

The budget is balanced by two 1-cent tax increases — one to support the town’s general fund and one for Chapel Hill Transit. The increase brings the property tax rate total to 51.4 cents levied on every $100 valuation of property.

Following calls from the public for increased hours, the Chapel Hill Public Library will now be funded for 64 hours per week — up from the current 54 hours, but slightly less than the pre-renovation 68 hours per week.

Other items in the budget include a 4-percent increase in health care premiums for town employees and raised public parking rates for metered lots and town pay stations.

While all council members approved the budget, some said it was not ideal.

“Every time we raise taxes, for whatever good purpose, in part, we make it harder and harder for people of modest — or even above modest means — to live here,” council member Matt Czajkowski said.

“I think overall, as we balance trade-offs, that they are well-balanced. But I will vote for it with a heavy heart because I know that some of the very people who we are constantly talking about serving in Chapel Hill won’t be here for us to serve after we pass this budget.”

But Mayor Pro Tempore Ed Harrison said Chapel Hill’s municipal taxes will remain lower than those of surrounding towns. He said Durham’s municipal taxes are 10 percent higher, Carrboro’s are 15 percent higher and Hillsborough’s are approximately 20 percent higher.

“We’re not doing all that much in terms of forcing people out of town if you look at the actual numbers,” Harrison said.

“If you can justify a tax raise, this one is justifiable.”

At the meeting, interim assistant planning director Loryn Clark presented the town’s updated Community Development Block Grant plan to provide housing and services to low-income people. The program received $16,096 more than anticipated when the council originally approved the plan in April.

The council agreed with Clark that the additional funds should go to the Community Home Trust, which funds affordable housing in Chapel Hill. The move will reduce the amount taken from the town’s Affordable Housing Fund for the program.

Finally, the council considered its advisory board review process. Members approved a plan that includes several public input meetings about the advisory system to take place throughout the summer. The council will consider possible revisions to the system in October.

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