The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday October 19th

Carrboro residents' property taxes could be raised with the new budget process

<p>Photo courtesy of Lydia Lavelle.&nbsp;</p>
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Photo courtesy of Lydia Lavelle. 

Carrboro is beginning its 2018-2019 budgetary process, which may result in higher property taxes for residents. 

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said she believes a reasonable tax increase would be supported by the community if it meant improved quality of service.

Carrboro is beginning its 2018-2019 budgetary process, which may result in higher property taxes for residents. 

“We’re a small town with big city values in a way," she said. "We get a lot of bang for our buck for our tax dollars, and our citizens really value and demand high-level quality services, like our fare-free transit, our recycling service, as well as the really pristine water system we have through OWASA." 

Damon Seils, Carrboro mayor pro tem, said he was unsure whether taxes will end up rising this year, but it has been nine years since the last change in taxes. 

“The manager made a pretty compelling case for us a few meetings ago about the large capital improvement needs of the town, and they were a sobering reminder that our citizens expect a high level of service and that there have been a number of capital projects over the years that have been not addressed,” he said. “It will be difficult for us to address them as a town without thinking about where the money’s going to come from.”

Seils specifically mentioned Carrboro’s partnership with Orange County on the Southern Branch Library, meeting state stormwater requirements and improving land use planning as potentially costly projects that could require additional revenue. 

The Capital Improvement Plan is a five-year plan from fiscal year 2018-2019 to 2022-2023. The South Orange Library Project is the largest portion of the plan, requiring 49 percent of total project costs. Sidewalks and greenways make up the second largest, requiring 14 percent. 

According to the plan, street resurfacing, vehicle and equipment replacement and proposed new projects will cost $6.8 million between 2018-2019 and 2022-2023. 

Seils said the most compelling example of a need for greater funding is the neglected maintenance and upgrading of town hall, the Century Center and other public buildings. Improving these buildings will take time and money, but Seils hopes this will improve working conditions for staff who are asked to work long hours. 

According to Carrboro’s Adopted Annual Operating Budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, general governance is the largest proportion of total expenses at 22 percent, followed by public safety at 21 percent and public works at 19 percent.

Lavelle agreed that deferred maintenance of town facilities was an important reason to raise revenue and said other town goals included expanding sidewalk and greenway infrastructure. 

“We took a strong look at a detailed financial capital improvement plan about two weeks ago, and if we want to move forward with some of these initiatives, it might be a time to go ahead and consider some type of a tax increase to help us be able to do that,” she said. 

Seils said he wishes the state would contribute more toward helping towns like Carrboro accomplish basic projects, such as public transportation and bicycle facilities. With funding stretched thin, he said it is difficult for Carrboro to build sidewalks that would encourage residents to visit local businesses. 

“Our state government, under its current leadership, does not see those kinds of projects as important, so there’s just a mismatch in our vision for what the future of North Carolina is, and the funding available reflects that,” he said.

Town manager David Andrews will present his budget to the Board of Aldermen on May 1 with a public hearing scheduled for May 22.

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