Published: Jun 15, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Jun 13, 2011 11:03 PM
CHAPEL HILL - The Town Council unanimously passed a budget Monday that includes a proposal to charge out-of-town library users and cuts the annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration.
The town tax rate on the approximately $50 million spending plan remains 49.4 cents per $100 of assessed property value, or $1,482 on a house with a tax value of $300,000.
Property owners in the downtown service district, which receive extra services, will continue to pay an additional property tax of 7.1 cents per $100 of value.
If the town starts charging Orange County residents who live outside Chapel Hill for a library card, it would no longer accept the annual $250,000 that Orange County contributes to the Chapel Hill library.
The budget does not set a specific fee for the cards yet. Town staff recommended $60 per family, but Town Manager Roger Stancil said the council could change that amount, if members decide to charge more or less.
Council member Matt Czajkowski said $60 is not a fair price since most Chapel Hill families pay more for library services through their taxes.
"It's absolutely unfair to the residents of Chapel Hill per family to be paying more," he said. "I'd like you to come back to us and explain that. ... That makes absolutely no economic sense to me."
If the board decides to charge out-of-town families for cards, the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation pledged up to $200,000 if not enough cards are sold to pay expenses.
"[This] would allow you to proceed with comfort that even if you didn't have good library card sales you would still be able to proceed with library services exactly as planned," Stancil said.No silver bullet
But some on the board said it is not the right time to impose a fee, especially as the town reduces services while the library is renovated and the economy is still weak.
"It's not a silver bullet; it's a one time payment," said council member Sally Greene. "To me it's the wrong year. I'm not sure if I would be able to support a fee next year."
Greene, who has been a part of negotiations to try to get the county to pay more for the library, said she still supports trying to get what the county is willing to pay this year.
The county's $250,000 is about 11 percent of the library's operating budget. As expenses have risen, the council has asked the county to pay more. About 40 percent of the library's current card-holders live outside the town, according to library officials.Fireworks show cut
The 2011-12 budget does not include any layoffs.
It does cut the Fourth of July fireworks show and fills gaps with a combination of program funding cuts and a $1 million transfer from the town's fund balance to its operating budget.
"Again we're still in the mode of trying to survive until the economy starts to heat up," Stancil said.
The council is scheduled to continue the library card discussion June 27.