Published: Jun 17, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 16, 2012 04:09 PM
CHAPEL HILL - The Orange County Board of Commissioners agreed last week to give the county’s two school districts more money and increase funding for some nonprofits without increasing taxes for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Commissioners agreed on a resolution stating their intention to approve a final budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year during a work session Tuesday night.
Commissioners added $1.5 million to County Manager Frank Clifton’s $178 million spending plan. The increase includes $244,000 for some nonprofit initiatives plus an additional $1.28 million, or $12 per pupil. for both the Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
The nonprofit additions include:
• Additional funding for Dispute Settlement center, $51,000
• Additional funds to budget for Fire Marshal $10,716
• Library funding, (additional four hours a week at Central Library), $51,460
Increase reserve for Rogers Road community center, $120,000
• Additional funding for Freedom House $1,000
• Scholarship fund for Department of Social Services, $10,000
Commissioners agreed to take money from the county’s General Fund balance, a reserve account used to manage cash flow, to use toward school funding.
Commissioners were initially split on whether to take money from the county’s savings and set a new spending precedent that the school systems would expect them to at least match next year.
If the county continues to raise school spending, commissioners may have to consider a tax increase for next fiscal year, 2013-14, Clifton said. If spending levels continue at the current level, a 3 cents tax increase would be required.
“What we’re making tonight are decisions not just for tonight but for then next several years,” said commissioners Chairwoman Bernadette Pelissier. “We’ve shown commitment but because the education budget is almost half of our entire budget we cannot necessarily fill all the gaps of the state cuts.”
Funding schools too high would set expectations at a dangerous level for next year, warned Commissioner Steve Yuhasz.
“I don’t want to raise expectations too high … and come back next year and have a ... tax increase to fund the expectation,” he said.
But the county already has a high fund balance, and it should be used in times like this, to fund education, said Commissioner Barry Jacobs.
“We have the highest fund balance in the history of Orange County, yes we should be conservative ...[but] every year we talk about whether we’re going to have to have a tax increase,” he said. “I think we’re OK to do it this way.”