Chatham’s recommended budget to be approved June 21, with “relatively minimal” changes

Posted 6/2/21

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners concluded its work sessions for the county’s recommended $149.9 million 2021-22 budget early on May 20, and canceled the remaining sessions scheduled for …

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Chatham’s recommended budget to be approved June 21, with “relatively minimal” changes

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Posted

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners concluded its work sessions for the county’s recommended $149.9 million 2021-22 budget early on May 20, and canceled the remaining sessions scheduled for May 21st and 25th.

The next and final step in the budget process is for it to be approved at the board’s regular meeting on June 21 to meet the state-required June 30 budget adoption date. The county’s fiscal year begins July 1.

“Based on the discussion at the work session, and the direction of the Board at that time, there are a few (relatively minimal) changes to the manager’s recommended budget,” Chatham County Budget Director Darrell Butts said in an email to the News + Record.

Two of those changes include correcting errors identified in the budget message.

On page 21 of the recommended budget message, one paragraph says intergovernmental revenues are expected to increase by 11%, when they’re actually expected to decrease by 9%. Other places in the budget message listed this correctly.

The other error, found on page 22 of the PDF budget message document, said other taxes and licenses revenue was expected to decrease by 5%, when it should actually increase by 29%. That revenue represents locally collected taxes apart from the property tax.

The board approved making both of those corrections.

The only other change to the recommended budget, Butts said, was the explicit inclusion of the Board of Commissioners in the 3% salary adjustment recommended by the county manager for all employees.

During the May 20 work session, board members discussed how the current salary might discourage mange qualified residents from seeking office. The 3% increase equates to an increase of $450 annually for board members and $481.50 for the board chairperson, Butts said.

“If approved, this will be the first adjustment of the Board of Commissioners salary since FY2006-2007 when it was increased by $3,000,” he said.

The work session followed the board’s regular May 19 meeting, at which technical difficulties with the virtual offering of the meeting prevented remote attendees from hearing the majority of meeting business, which was supposed to include a public hearing on the county’s recommended budget.

Two people who signed up to speak remotely couldn’t speak because of those audio glitches. One person who signed up to speak in-person did not show up, county Public Information Officer Kara Dudley said. All comments were submitted before the meeting to be entered into public record, she said.

Those comments included requests to prioritize conservation of Chatham’s natural resources and “necessary improvements” to the Bynum Mill site and trail along the Haw River to Route 6 in this year’s budget.

The board discussed such input at its May 20 work session, acknowledging that there wasn’t much input, and that what was received concerned the trail coordinator position and expanding land conservation along the Haw River.

Near the end of the work session, Vice Chairperson Diana Hales stated the budget was just shy of $150 million, and inquired what it was four years ago. Butts said it was just under $111 million in FY2018; it was just over $94 million in FY15.

The recommended budget represents a 10.4% increase in expenditures from the current budget — funded in part by expected additional tax revenue, including an increase in property taxes, permitting, excise and sales tax collections. The proposed budget, expected to be approved later this month, also includes an additional $2.4 million to support the opening of Seaforth High school, funding for 31 new county positions and a 3% pay raise for all county employees.

County Manager Dan LaMontagne previously said in regard to the budget that the county was in a good position to recover from challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and last October’s cyber attack, but needed to look ahead to prepare for population and development growth.

“For several years, we have discussed the need of being properly prepared for growth. As a county, we are now at the point that the rapid growth and development we have long expected is happening,” LaMontagne said in a May 4 news release about the proposed budget. “Throughout this budget, you will see that we are focused on ensuring that the development that is occurring is well monitored and aligns with the long-term vision that Plan Chatham has laid out for Chatham County.”

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.

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