This week, the Chapel Hill Town Council will be meeting to discuss two major items. First, the council is considering its annual budget, which will likely include a small tax increase, and help the town continue to support ongoing projects. Second, the council will debate whether to advance a $50 million bond this year, and, if so, how best to allocate the money.

In a rare Monday night work session, the council will be discussing both issues. First, on the budget, the council is considering a 2 cent tax increase (1.5 cents for general fund expenditures, .5 cents for transportation). Here’s where the expected revenue will go.

Last year, when the town switched to a five-year budgeting model, instead of budgeting from year to year, as they had done previously, town manager Chris Blue emphasized the need to catch up on long neglected maintenance, which, when deferred, costs most in the long run. To give one example, earlier this year the Transportation and Connectivity Board received (see Jan. 23 agenda) a presentation noting that the town needs to spend $5.2 million annually to maintain its streets, but is currently spending just a fraction of that, with predictable results.

While this tax increase will help the town chip away at this and other challenges, it’s clear that the town needs to keep up with rising costs. We’re glad the town has adopted a five-year budgeting strategy, and imagine that this tax increase will go forward.

The Council is considering putting a $50 Million Bond on the ballot

The bigger debate tonight will likely be whether to place a $50 million bond on the ballot this fall and, if so, how best to allocate the funds. Here’s what town staff is recommending:

Earlier this year, the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition pressed for the town to spend $50 million in bond money on affordable housing. The allocation currently being considered by the town prioritizes replacing two of its five fire stations. Other projects town staff have identified as urgent include:

It’s unclear whether the $2 million to complete the first section of the Fordham side path (a project that has been years in the making, in part because it’s turned out to be much more expensive than originally anticipated), will come from the streets and sidewalks fund or the open space/greenways fund. Other projects identified as a town priority are as follows:

Finally, a number of projects will not be funded via the current bond, though the town could find other ways to begin work on them. The town issues bonds about once a decade, so anything that is not funded now will be move to the back burner.

While work sessions are open to the public, no public comment is allowed. However, this Wednesday the Chapel Hill Town Council meets in a regular meeting. While they will not be discussing the budget or the bond on Wednesday, we imagine that some in Chapel Hill will be there to advocate for their priorities for the town.

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Martin Johnson lives in Chapel Hill. He teaches film studies courses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also a member of NEXT Chapel Hill-Carrboro and the Bicycle Alliance of Chapel...