Town budget for 2025 shrinks 15.8%, says finance director

GOVERNMENT

By Fraser Sherman
Correspondent

CARRBOROCarrboro’s $68.3 million budget for the next fiscal year will be 15.8% smaller than the 2024 budget, says Finance Director Brett Greene.

Presenting city staff’s draft budget at the June 4 council meeting, Greene said it includes a projected 10% increase in operating expenses. However, city staff expect $15.9 million less in capital expenses now that the 203 Project is wrapping up.

The FY 2025 budget also projects an increase in property tax revenue from $15.8 to $16.74 million. Additionally, local sales tax revenue would increase from $6.1 to $6.2 million.

Greene told the council that increasing operating expenses was necessary to avoid “an exponential increase in costs” as projects become more expensive. For example, a street resurfacing project that costs $1/foot now might cost $12/foot if the city waits to get it done.

One of the PowerPoint slides shows the budget breakdown: 25% for general government, 24% for public safety, 14% for public works, 10% for non-departmental spending, and 7% each for transportation, planning, and recreation/parks/culture. The remaining five percent goes to servicing debts incurred for vehicles, equipment, sidewalks, greenways, Fire Station #2, and the 203 Project.

The biggest “expense drivers” include:

  • A 10% pay increase for existing staff–three percent of that is a cost of living increase and 7% a one-time market adjustment.
  • Adding 15 new staff positions.
  • $225,000 to rewrite the town’s land-use ordinance.
  • $200,000 spent on the downtown master plan.
  • $400,000 spent on new software and other IT expenses.

The council will hold a public hearing on the budget June 18, then vote on it. The public can see the presentation and the full budget online.

The future of downtown Carrboro

At the June 4 meeting, Planning Director Trish McGuire updated the council on the city’s Downtown Area Plan.

Carrboro Connects, the town’s 2022-2042 comprehensive plan, lists developing an area plan for downtown as one of its goals. The city should “plan for new, well-designed mixed-use development and public spaces on vacant and underutilized parcels,” and identify areas for the downtown to grow. McGuire said the town had engaged a consultant earlier this year who would begin work on the downtown plan soon.

Carrboro Connects was the town’s first attempt at comprehensive planning in 20 years. City documentation says the comprehensive plan is built on two foundations: racial justice and fighting climate change. The consultant’s mission for the Downtown Area Plan includes:

  • Engage with Carrboro communities, including communities of color, and discuss downtown plans with them.
  • Identify potential redevelopment sites.
  • Create “a visually appealing and functional streetscape design.”
  • Propose design standards “ensuring architectural coherence, preservation of historic structures, and promoting sustainable building practices.”
  • Look at Carrboro’s multimodal transportation system and how it can cope with increased downtown development.

McGuire said the work on the project begins later this year. “The last time we engaged on the downtown was 2001,” said McGuire, “right before 9/11,  actually,” so it’s past due to engage again.

Survey says Carrboro residents like the town

According to Carrboro’s April 2024 community survey, residents love Carrboro’s festivals, community events and cultural activities, and the easy access to parks and green spaces. Only a quarter of residents were pleased with the town’s efforts to preserve and expand affordable housing.

Jason Rado of the ETC Institute, which conducted the survey, reported at the June 4 meeting that discontent with affordable housing wasn’t surprising: communities everywhere are expressing dissatisfaction and disappointment over that issue.

While the 407 people who submitted responses to the survey didn’t give answers to every question, the respondents who did respond said Carrboro had a great quality of life, was a welcoming community to everyone, and a good place to raise kids.

Respondents were less enthused about Carrboro’s business climate. While 97% thought Carrboro was a good or excellent place to live, only 28% thought it was a good place to start a business.

Several council members said the favorable responses were good to hear. Council Member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said she’d like to see more questions focused on climate and the environment, and more on parking. “These survey results do indicate that we don’t necessarily know what folks really feel.”

You can download the full survey and other materials via the June 4 agenda package available through the Carrboro online calendar. The entire meeting is available streaming on YouTube.


Fraser Sherman has worked for newspapers, including the Destin Log, the Pensacola News-Journal and the Raleigh Public Record. Born in England, he’d still live in Florida if he hadn’t met the perfect woman and moved to Durham to marry her. He’s the author of several film reference books and has published one novel and several short story collections.
This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press<

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