“My goal is to present a budget to the Commissioners with no property tax increase,” said Michael Talbert , interim county manager. “I’m just not 100 percent sure that is possible right now.”
Talbert said 70 percent of Orange County revenue comes from property taxes. And close to 50 percent of the general fund for Orange County is for schools .
He said there is another possible source of income other than property taxes, but that it might not be enough to make up for the shortfall.
“Another major source of revenue for us with the economy improving recently is sales tax, so that could help offset,” he said. “However, I don’t believe that will be enough to make up all of the shortfalls.”
Sales tax only accounted for 9 percent of revenue last year
Current property taxes in Orange County is 85 cents for every $100 valuation, which is almost 20 cents higher than the average for all the other counties in North Carolina, said Chris McLaughlin , a professor in UNC’s School of Government.
Talbert said that isn’t what he is worried about.
“The fact that we are high compared to other counties is not going to change any time soon,” he said. “But, ultimately, I’m just worried about making our budget, not what other counties are doing.”
McLaughlin also said Orange County could have a smaller tax base to begin with.
“Orange county has a lot of exempt land,” McLaughlin said. “For instance, all of the land that UNC owns is not taxable, that lowers the amount of tax base the county has.”
County commissioners will consider Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools ’ proposed budget during their meeting Thursday. The budget, which was proposed last month, includes a $3.7 million shortfall. The district will impose $900,000 in reductions that lowers the shortfall to $2.8 million .
According to last year’s budget, raising property taxes by one cent across the entire county would increased per pupil appropriation by more than $80 for both Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
Orange County schools predict they’ll receive $25.3 million from the commissioners. The school system is requesting $26.6 million for the next year, including a $175 per pupil raise
“There is a lot of uncertainity concerning increases from the state for teachers pay which would then have to be reflected and adjusted for on the local level,” Talbert said.
The schools will present next year’s budget to the commission April 29 and the approved budget will be sent to the county manager’s office May 20 .