The Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously approved the $129.38 million budget for the Fiscal Year 2022-2023, as well as $546,500 for human services agencies in its meeting on Wednesday.
Town Manager Maurice Jones presented the coming year's budget, which includes the funding for the human services agencies as recommended by the Human Services Advisory Board.
Jones said the final budget plan on June 8 stemmed from the council's retreat in February and March. After the work sessions in April and May, the final budget for FY23 was first presented on May 4 and a public hearing was held on May 18.
Jones highlighted several key takeaways for the council in the FY23 budget presentation, including continuing the recovery and restoration of the community from the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing the property tax rate from 51.4 cents per 100 dollars to 52.2 cents.
Jones said the 0.8-cent increase in the property tax rate will go towards supporting the increasing needs of Chapel Hill Transit.
Town Council Member Amy Ryan said that she was wary of tax increases due to coming off of a budget surplus but ultimately believed the money was well-spent.
“I think we've taken that money and made a wise investment in our transit and a wise investment in our people, so I think we've put that to good use,” Ryan said at the May 18 public hearing.
Jones also mentioned other areas of importance in the budget.
"There is a sharp focus on climate action, affordable housing and homelessness initiatives, social equity and infrastructure," Jones said.
The climate action plan will be increased by $80,000 to over $550,000 for the coming fiscal year. Additionally, $329,000 will go to the Affordable Housing Performance Agreements, which ensures affordable housing opportunities.
Changes to the recommended budget were also presented. Additional funding of $258,000 was dedicated to the Inter-Faith Council, $126,000 to the Street Outreach, Harm Reduction and Deflection Program and $20,000 to cultural arts.
Council Member Camille Berry tearfully emphasized the urgency of IFC funding and implored the council to provide the IFC's requested funds at the May 18 council meeting.
"If it had not been for the resources that this town provides this community as a whole and the people who live in this community—including the wonderful family who opened their doors to my family—and the IFC, who I went to (on) numerous occasions, I would not be here. I would not have the opportunity to talk to you," she said.
Mayor Pam Hemminger also voiced her support for the IFC funding at the May 18 meeting. She said that the organization "shouldn't have had to bear this by themselves."
She implored the council to think about what they are representing with their values.
"When you ask me to balance monies towards them with street repaving, I get a little irritated," she said. "Street repaving, we've got some major bucks going towards that — millions of dollars — and some other things can wait. I don't think people are dying because streets are not being repaved."
Funding for vehicle replacement was reduced by $95,600. This came with a $40,000 reduction in additional funding for the cost of services increases and a $41,995 reduction in new funding for phase 2 pay study implementation.
A new Economic Development Admin Coordinator position was added to the Chapel Hill Town Council, and the grants fund will support new planning grants of $493,903.The Compensation Analyst position will be removed from this year's budget – the position will be added in a future year.
Jones also presented a further breakdown of the budget categories.
Public works make up ten percent of the budget, police make up 11 percent, the fire department makes up eight percent, the general government makes up nine percent and debt service payments on capital projects makes up seven percent.
Transit is the largest category, accounting for 23 percent of the budget.
N.C. Vision Zero, an initiative devoted to eliminating roadway deaths for bike riders and pedestrians, will receive $125,000. The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership will receive $100,000.
Council member Paris Miller-Foushee was recused from both votes due to her part-time position at theInter-Faith Council.
Council members Michael Parker, Tai Huynh and Camille Berry did not vote on the funding for human services agencies due to a conflict of interest involving their roles in nonprofit organizations.
The vote on the FY23 budget and funding for the human services agencies were unanimous among the remaining council members.
Jones briefly touched on the five-year budget strategy, which was reserved for detailed discussion for the fall.
“We do plan to return to the council in the fall to continue with our in-depth discussion of the five-year budget strategy with our goal of developing a plan to address the town's significant needs over time,” he said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.