In its final work session meeting before potentially approving the final budget for the fiscal year 2023 next week, the Carrboro Town Council reviewed several initiatives funded by the budget, including the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness and Carrboro’s Community Climate Action Plan.
The Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to aid those who are experiencing homelessness by providing them shelter and resources. The program is jointly funded by Orange County and the towns of Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
The partnership requested that the Town of Carrboro provide an extra $95,243 to expand its three programs — Rapid Re-housing, Housing Stability Coordinator and the Street Outreach, Harm Reduction and Deflection Program.
SOHRAD, which provides unsheltered people with housing and resources, has served nearly 300 people, deflected 125 cases from law enforcement and provided 85 people with permanent housing since it was founded in 2020.
Several Carrboro Town Council members expressed support for the expansion of the SOHRAD program and prioritized it for funding in the budget, while acknowledging the three programs should work in tandem.
“As we look at the way these three programs work together, they intentionally — from the Partnership — address different aspects of the crisis that we face,” Town Council member Danny Nowell said. “I think, considering what we're hearing about the health of our balance right now, this gives us a really good opportunity to start to address all of the parts of the funnel that lead to the problem that we're in.”
Town Manager Richard J. White III proposed two options for the funding of these programs and other affordable housing projects, such as the Carrboro Affordable Housing Advisory Commission. The Town could increase property taxes by a half-cent or use some of the $6.75 million received by the Town through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Carrboro Mayor Damon Seilsacknowledged that funding for the partnership and affordable housing projects could reasonably come from the Town’s surplus for the next fiscal year, but said that more sustainable ways of funding these programs should be considered, including the half-cent tax increase.
“I'm all about us being all out there on supporting these priorities, but we have to be looking ahead to do it in a way that's sustainable," he said. "It's fine to say we're going to do it this coming fiscal year. That's great. It's very exciting for us to be able to do this, to be able to dip into our reserves and do something this big, it’s fantastic. What about the next year? And the years after that?”
Town Council member Eliazar Posada, who was sworn in last week, said he did not want to raise taxes but that the programs should be continued nevertheless.
He said the partnership’s programs are essential and should not suffer from a lack of funding while the Town decides on long-term solutions.
“I just don’t want to pause now, have the conversation, and in the meantime, those services might be affected,” Posada said.
The Town Council also reviewed a proposal for funding for the Community Climate Action Plan. The main goal of the plan, which was created in 2009, is to reduce emissions from the community by 80 percent by 2030.
In 2019, estimates placed the combined amount of community and municipal carbon dioxide emissions at around 110,000 metric tons, most of which came from electricity use, vehicles and natural gas. Carrboro’s goal is to bring that total under 30,000 metric tons by 2030.
According to a presentation from Carrboro Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Laura Janway, this plan would cost more than $42 million over the next eight fiscal years, with more than $6 million being spent in the upcoming FY23 budget.
Janway said reducing emissions will depend on implementing cost-effective solutions, such as increasing the efficiency of public transportation.
“Education and giving people really easy ways to reduce their emissions without having to change too much or spend too much money, I think that’s really going to be key,” she said.
The Carrboro Town Council’s budget approval meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 21, at 7 p.m.
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