$150M Chatham County budget could raise property taxes. Here’s what it could pay for.

·3 min read

Chatham County Manager Dan LaMontagne’s $149.9 million recommended budget asks homeowners to pay a little more property tax next year and gives county employees a raise.

The fiscal 2021-22 budget sets a tax rate of 66.5 cents per $100 in assessed property value — a half-cent below the current tax rate.

Most county tax bills would still rise, however, because the new, recommended tax rate exceeds the revenue-neutral rate of 62.29 cents per $100. The revenue neutral rate is a preliminary tax rate set after a revaluation. The new rate generates the same amount of tax revenue for the county as the previous year.

The county’s last revaluation was in 2017.

If the county commissioners approve the proposed budget, the owner of a property valued at $350,000 would pay $2,327.50 in county tax next year — an increase of $147.35. Property owners in Pittsboro and other municipalities also pay a town property tax bill.

The additional tax dollars will help pay for growing demand for services, give county employees a 3% salary increase, and fully fund the Chatham County Schools’ request for a $2.4 million budget increase. The district will use the extra money to give teachers additional pay and support the new Seaforth High School, opening in Pittsboro in September.

The county is in a good position to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, LaMontagne said in a news release about his proposed budget

“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. “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.”

The budget can be viewed online at tinyurl.com/hu9b75yh or in person at any of the three Chatham County library branches.

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. May 17 at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center in Pittsboro. Residents also can comment by registering for the GoToWebinar and signing up to speak online through the public input form. Comments also should be submitted in writing to lindsay.ray@chathamcountync.gov.

Budget highlights

Cyber security: $81,531 for off-site backup storage data backups and a disaster recovery plan for the county information technology network.

Sustainability: A new Sustainability Department would focus on energy efficiency, natural resources and climate change, through projects like electric-vehicle charging stations and solar panels for county buildings.

The budget also includes $28,000 for a revised Farmland Preservation and Open Space Plan.

Chatham County Schools: $5.2 million to cover borrowing for the new high school; $180,000 for teacher supplements. Seaforth will be Chatham’s fourth high school, serving students in the eastern part of the county and helping to reduce enrollment at Northwood High School. Northwood will continue to serve Pittsboro and the central part of the county.

COVID-19 recovery: $75,000 for the Chatham Economic Development Corp. to provide financial assistance to small businesses hurt by the pandemic.

County employees: 3% pay increase, plus pay adjustments recommended in a recent salary study. Health care costs could rise by 2%. The budget adds 31 positions in multiple departments to meet the growing need for services, such as parks and recreation, law enforcement, building inspections and permitting.

Fee increases: Budget sets a minimum fee for inspecting single-family homes, and increases the basic permit fee and re-inspection fee. Higher fees for development-related testing.

Fire district taxes: Bennett, Pittsboro and Silk Hope fire departments have asked for an increase in the property-based tax charged to businesses and residents in each fire service district.