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The Daily Tar Heel

Town, county urge business, organizations to use public funds

Funding projects

Orange County voters passed a quarter-cent sales tax in 2011 that generated additional funding for education and economic development purposes.

The program has raised a little over $2.5 million each year since its inception. About $1.25 million — or half — of the funds has been allocated to education in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

The other half of the funds is allotted to economic development projects.

Steve Brantley, director of Orange County Economic Development, said there is no set protocol for moving forward on certain projects once organizations apply for funding.

“While funds were accruing, there was no protocol, no application, no policies or any guidelines or approving authority,” Brantley said.

“This year, Orange County has been working on developing policies for review in order to go live in January 2015.”

Brantley said the economic development office is trying to increase the marketing of available agricultural, economic development and business investment grants so that more organizations will apply to receive them.

“I think the agricultural and business grants will be in higher demand,” Brantley said.

“I think we’re attracting companies with the biggest hits, which will help develop the county.”

New bond referendum

County commissioners have discussed in recent meetings the need for a bond referendum to fund both county and school capital needs.

“We have outstanding school capital projects, affordable housing projects and Parks and Recreation projects,” said Clarence Grier, assistant Orange County manager.

“Schools have maintenance projects totaling $330 million.”

The last bond referendum was passed in November 2001 and totaled $75 million.

Another possible bond referendum has been proposed for 2016. The commissioners discussed setting the referendum at a range between $100 and $125 million over a period of 20 years.

The property tax equivalent would be between 4 and 4.89 cents.

“This is a huge opportunity to do some of the energy efficiency upgrades,” said Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade. “I would encourage the commissioners, if we go forward with the bond, to include significant comprehensive energy efficiency.”

Commissioners will further discuss the referendum and how it would be used at future meetings.

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