Town council debates budget, holds public hearing


By Adam Powell

CHAPEL HILL — While the public hearing and discussion about the proposed changes to Chapel Hill’s land use management ordinance dominated much of the conversation at the May 24 Town Council meeting, the elected board considered multiple other items over the course of the evening.

Among other agenda items, the council discussed the Town Manager’s proposed 2024-24 budget, held a public hearing on the budget, considered conditional zoning applications for UNC Health Care Easttowne, and a new series of apartments at 5101 Barbee Chapel Road.

According to the town’s presentation, a four-cent tax increase to Chapel HIll’s 2023-24 budget would provide for three additional Chapel Hill firefighters, two apprentice inspectors, and one affordable housing manager in addition to pay increases and adjustments to current staff.

A five-cent tax increase would provide for a commercial plans reviewer, a planning technician, a planning project manager, a municipal arborist, a crisis counselor, and a maintenance mechanic, while also allowing the town to begin its proposed Campus to Campus Greenway design. The town would be able to complete right-of-way acquisition steps with the additional funding, while also creating so-called “pay go” funding for future projects.

The median home value in Chapel Hill is currently $454,300, based on 2020 Census data. Homeowners with assessed values in this range will be looking at an additional $182 on their next tax bill with a four-cent tax increase, or an additional $227 if the council approves a five-cent increase. Homeowners with $500,000 assessments will be looking at a bill increase of about $200 to $250 annually, based on whether the council approves a four or five-cent increase.

Council members Adam Searing and Camille Berry, who appeared opposed on the scale of the proposed tax increases, had a brief disagreement during the board comments segment of the session after Searing described the budget as irresponsible.

Searing clarified a board rule citing that board members shouldn’t engage in personal attacks, which drew a rebuke from Berry.

“I just wanted to clarify, as my understanding of those rules, is that we do not engage as council members in personal attacks at other council members. And I just wanted to make sure that that was my correct understanding of our rule. Those rules have changed?” Searing said.

“I think that’s correct,” Berry said in response. “We also don’t engage in calling our colleagues as a whole by things like your responses. I think that’s where the dialogue gets off track.”

“Well, I believe what my words were was that our budget is irresponsible. Not my colleagues as a whole are responsible. But thank you for clarifying that,” said Searing back to Berry.

Among the items approved by council in the consent agenda included an authorization for the town manager to contract with Salisbury and Moore Construction, Inc. in the amount of $509,923 for three new tennis courts at Hargraves Park along Roberson Street, and the approval of the closing of a right-of-way along Hamilton Road in the Glen Lennox subdivision.

The council also amended its Code of Ordinances to allow an all-way stop at the intersection of Henderson Street and North Street, and authorized Mayor Pam Hemminger to execute an agreement between the town, the Research Triangle Public Transportation Authority, also known as Go Triangle, Orange County, the Town of Carrboro, the City of Mebane, and the Town of Hillsborough on a wide-ranging interlocal cooperation agreement, which is a key component of the Orange County Transit Governance Interlocal Agreement. 

Disclosure: Adam Searing is a former member of TLR’s advisory committee and a monthly donor.

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