Published: Jun 26, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Jun 24, 2011 07:29 PM
CHAPEL HILL - The Orange County commissioners have passed a budget with no tax increase for the third year in a row.
The $178.2 million general fund budget keeps the county property tax rate at 85.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
The owner of a $250,000 house will pay $2,145 in county property tax in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Tax bills will go out this summer and must be paid by Jan. 5, 2012.
The budget extends a six-month hiring freeze in most departments, has no cost-of-living increases for county workers, and increases the county's living wage to $10.81 per hour.
It phases in new positions in the commissioners' priority areas of public safety, emergency medical services, libraries and solid waste convenience centers. It also funds a drug-treatment court, children's dental care and other areas cut by the state.
"I think we can be really proud of this budget," Commissioner Barry Jacobs said. "We continue to represent what Orange County stands for and what Orange County would like to stand for."
The budget is nearly $2.9 million, or 1.6 percent higher, than the current year's spending plan. The county will be able to increase spending by underspending in recent years, collecting more revenue than projected and by taking a minimal amount of money out of its fund balance, an account used to manage cash flow throughout the year.
That enabled the commissioners Tuesday night to approve several items not in County Manager Frank Clifton's recommended budget, including:
$67,000 for the drug-treatment court
$75,000 for a small business loan program
$100,000 for child-care subsidies
$33,000 for Smart Start dental care
The county property tax is the largest slice of the total tax bill for residents who also pay town taxes and, if they live in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, a school district tax.
In Chapel Hill, for example, the three tax levies on a $250,000 house will combine for a total property tax bill on a $250,000 house this coming fiscal year of $3,851.
In Carrboro, which passed its budget last week, the three tax levies on a $250,000 house will combine for a total property tax bill of $4,089.50.