Budget



I filed today.  Here is my news relase:

Lydia Lavelle announced that she will file to run for a second term on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. Lavelle was first elected in November 2007.

During her first term, Lavelle has not only been a steady presence on the Board, but has also been actively representing Carrboro’s interests in several other capacities.

This year, she is serving as the chair of the regional Transportation Advisory Committee of the Durham/Chapel Hill/Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (TAC-MPO), a group composed of elected officials from Orange, Durham and Chatham counties responsible for addressing and planning for transportation needs for the region. In addition, she sits on the Transit Partners Committee, a work group of elected officials and staff that discusses issues related to Chapel Hill Transit. She also represents Carrboro on the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitor’s Bureau Board of Directors, and is the BOA liaison to the Planning Board.

Lavelle has lived in the triangle area for 28 years, and at her current address for seven years. She became a member of the Town’s Planning Board and chaired its New Horizons Task Force after her neighborhood became a part of the town in January 2006. An attorney, Lavelle is employed as an Assistant Professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham.

“I am grateful to the voters of Carrboro who elected me four years ago to serve as an alderman. During my first term, I have established a reputation as a person who listens and makes well-reasoned decisions. I work hard to be accessible to my constituents and colleagues. Further, I actively represent the interests of Carrboro in a variety of regional settings. I have enjoyed getting to know many fine people who also care about Carrboro during my tenure. If I have the opportunity to serve the Town of Carrboro with a second term of office, I will continue the local leadership that I have established these first four years.”

Lavelle has a history of service in her communities. Before serving on the Board of Aldermen, she worked for the city of Durham for eight years, after which she became a member of the City of Durham Recreation Advisory Committee and the Durham Open Space and Trails (DOST) Commission. She was vice-chair of the DOST for several years, and also a member of the Trails Committee, which planned and routed many of the trails and greenways in Durham.

Her continuing priorities will be to work to improve transportation options, to represent Carrboro’s concerns and interests with regional partners, and to steward Carrboro’s growth and development with an eye towards diversifying the town’s tax base.

A lot has been happening this spring, so I thought I would summarize a few matters with this post.  One is that I have been involved in more extra meetings than I thought possible working on our MPO’s transit plan, which includes expanded bus service as well as a light rail line between UNC Hospitals and Alston Ave.  We are under the gun to convince the Orange County and Durham County Commissioners to vote to have a transit tax on the ballot this fall; this money would go toward the transit plan with money from other sources such as a vehicle tax increase and federal and state funds.  The transit tax, however, is a key component in the plan, and one that will require voter education and buy-in if it is indeed on the ballot.

Another bit of news is that our town manager, Steve Stewart, announced that he will be retiring at the end of the summer, and so we have begun the process of hiring a search firm to help us fill this most critical position.  In my opinion (and I am not alone), Steve has done a fine job as town manager, and our task will be challenging as we seek to find someone who brings his level of skill and experience to the position. 

Speaking of the Town Manager, Steve masterfully presented another tax-increase free budget to us this month for the upcoming fiscal year.  He accomplished this predominantly by cost cutting where possible, keeping some positions vacant, and delaying some capital purchases.  These are not options we can do every year, but as the economy improves, hopefully we will be able to restore money in areas where we have had to cut or delay expenses.

We voted at one of our meetings to a rezoning for a property off of Hillsborough Road so that the County could consider an option to purchase the property to build a Carrboro branch library on the site.  Many residents came out to speak in favor of the project, but there were also several residents (mostly neighbors) who spoke who did not want the site rezoned for a library.  Although we ended up voting for the rezoning (a supermajority vote of six affirmative votes out of the seven members was required because a protest petition had been submitted by neighbors), we also expressed concern about the plans for traffic flow to the library and the impact on the streets surrounding the property.  When the site plan comes before us in the future, we will be looking at this closely. 

Finally, at one of our meetings, we reviewed the parking deck that will be constructed at the East Main Street project.  We gave comments and feedback to the developer, and were told that they hoped to break ground later this summer on both the parking deck and the hotel on the property.  This is a much anticipated project in Carrboro, one that will be a key to our plan for growth in the downtown area.

It has been a busy spring!

On June 15, 2010, we adopted our Town budget for fiscal year 2010-2011.  You can get to it on the Documents link.   We did not have an increase in our tax rate; it remains at 58.94 percent per $100 valuation of taxable property. 

This represents a fine job performed by Steve Stewart, our town manager, given our slow economy which has resulted in lower sales tax revenues and permit fees in our coffers.  Through creative means, despite the rising costs of insurance and other governmental mandates, we avoided a tax rate increase for the second time in as many years.  The BOA appreciates the fine work of our town manager, and I am sure our citizens do as well.

We had our BOA retreat on Monday, February 2, 2009.  The half-day session was all about money – the financial picture of the town, and how the economy was (or would be) affecting our citizens.  The members of the board brainstormed about ways to tackle our financial challenge.  We ended up paring down a list of some 40-plus ideas, and staff is going to follow up on those for us.

Potential action items included the following:

  1. Considering increasing aid to agencies
  2. Involve BOA members in combined giving campaign
  3. Explore with legislators options for local preferential purchasing
  4. Move assets to locally owned banks and/or credit unions
  5. Refer “What can we do to help businesses” question from local business survey to the Local Living Economy Task Force
  6. Discuss BOA interest in green building industry and set objectives

The Daily Tar Heel followed up with a story about the survey, and our effort to reach out to local businesses and non-profits, which you can read here.

We passed our 2008-2009 town budget, approximately $18.5 million, at our June 3rd meeting.

Our town property tax rate increased by 3.26 cents, and our tax rate is now 68.63% of $100 assessed value. Town Manager Steve Stewart informed us that (at the current tax rate) town property tax revenue for the next year was projected to only rise 2%, and sales tax revenue was expected to increase just 1%. Inflation is now at 4.1%, and so these figures make for a challenging budget year.

Our tax rate reflects our need to continue to work to increase our commercial tax base. It also reflects our need to continue to be conservative about any decisions we make that result in an increase in the budget. We were presented with a budget this year that not only handled increases that we cannot control (health insurance and gasoline costs, for
example) but one that that also cut or saved in enough areas that we were able to fund through an expansion of the budget two additional police officers, six flushless urinals at the Century Center (the financial payback of which will be realized in six years, and then savings will result), and additional money for the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust. Our CIP initiatives (sidewalks, greenways, street resurfacing, Weaver Street reconstruction, etc.) are also progressing. Otherwise, our budget remained the same as the previous year.

I should note with regard to the additional money for the OCHLT that I voted for an increase of $4,000, not $8,000 (the $8,000 increase was approved 4-3 by the board). I voted this way because the town manager’s recommendation of $4,000 was in line percentage-wise with what neighboring jurisdictions were budgeting, and additionally, although I wholeheartedly support the work of the OCHLT, it is hard for me to justify almost any increase to the budget during these tough financial times.

It looks as though our citizens will be hit heavily in the pocket this upcoming year with Orange County (which includes the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system) raising its tax rate, and the Orange Water and Sewer Authority raising its fees. The reality is that these financial decisions affect the overall tax and financial burden on our citizens more than decisions that we on the BOA make, because they are a much greater piece of the pie.

As such, just as we carefully review and consider ways to be smart with our budget, we must renew our effort to collaborate and brainstorm and work with Orange County, the school board and OWASA, with the goal of making our area a place where we can all continue to afford to live.