CHAPEL HILL - Residents asked the Town Council last week to make housing, library services and youth programs top priorities in next year’s budget.
“Our workload has increased 45 percent in last five years, due to town success in filling goals, yet staff and money are the same,” said Anita Badrock, with the nonprofit Community Home Trust. “We are fast approaching a time when it’s becoming very difficult for us to continue funding our organization.”
She was among seven people who spoke Wednesday in support of local affordable housing groups, including Housing for New Hope, CASA, Habitat for Humanity of Orange County and Empowerment Inc. The need is increasing as funding remains stagnant or falling, they said.
Badrock said the Home Trust has 200 affordable homes, with another 25 coming online in the next six to nine months. They will need roughly $500,000 next year – a mix of local and federal funds and money that the Home Trust has saved – to make those homes affordable to new buyers and support existing home sales, she said.
Empowerment executive director Delores Bailey said she gets calls daily from people, particularly since Collins Crossing in Carrboro started raising rents and many landlords stopped taking federal Section 8 housing funds.
Empowerment owns and manages 33 affordable rentals, and they are asking for money to buy more, Bailey said. The town has an affordable housing problem and needs to deal with it, she said.
“We’ve got to stop pretending there’s not a problem, because there is,” Bailey said.
Town Manager Roger Stancil said the effects of state and federal cuts on the town’s budget are uncertain. Town staff also doesn’t know yet how much grant money will be available through the federal Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs.
Based on the current budget, the town expects to have roughly $53.4 million in revenues and at least $52.6 million in expenses for 2013-14, he said. Each penny on the town’s property tax rate of 49 cents per $100 of assessed property value generates about $728,000, he said.
That leaves about $880,000, plus $2 million from the town’s fund balance, to put toward approximately $3 million in additional anticipated costs for:
• Solid waste
• A pending town pay and job classification plan
• Street paving
• Retiree heath liability costs
• Chapel Hill Transit costs
• Capital improvement costs
• Additional library costs
Two dozen people showed up Wednesday to also seek continued funding for the newly expanded Chapel Hill Public Library. Six residents urged the council to find the $2.9 million that library staff said is needed to operate 63,000-square-foot building, which will reopen in April. Martha Brunstein, with the Friends of the Library, and East Chapel Hill High School student Annie Lowe presented more than 1,200 signatures on separate petitions supporting the current hours and funding.
“These people want to use the library, and they want to use the new library to the fullest extent,” Brunstein said.
The Town Council is considering whether to close the library at least one day a week, limit its hours or roll out new services over a few years to save money.
Library Foundation liaison George Cianciolo said the group also was speaking on behalf of those who couldn’t be at the meeting, either because they had to work long hours, were single parents caring for their children or were too embarrassed because of their limited English skills.
“Many of us here have the flexibility of scheduling and financial resources to survive the proposed cuts. We can do that, but the people who can’t be here tonight often can’t do that,” he said.
Former Mayor Rosemary Waldorf said the community has always known it would cost more to run the library.
“The new library is a real cause for community celebration, and I hope you can figure out a way to have it open real hours with real staffing,” she said. “If that includes a tax increase, then I think people will be OK with that as long as they understand what it’s for.”