Leading from the Left

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Setting the Record Straight

The following letter, signed by all 7 members of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, will appear in local papers in coming days. It's an attempt to get the facts out on the table, after months of misinformation being thrown about. Read on...

To The Editor:

Let’s set the record straight.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners seeks to avoid a tax increase in 2009 and is committed to spending cuts and a revenue neutral tax rate (no increase in income).

We accept the county attorney’s opinion that rescinding the 2009 revaluation is not legal at this date, and believe that such an adjustment would not solve our collective and individual financial difficulties, anyway.

The other night the commissioners directed the county manager to produce a budget for fiscal year 2009-10 that reflects a rate of spending no higher than supported by a revenue neutral tax rate. Assumed is a spending level reduced by a minimum of $8.7 million from 2008-09, about five percent.

The manager also was asked to provide recommendations for additional, significant, targeted cuts below that rate of spending. Those reductions, to be considered later this spring, could allow property taxes to be set below the revenue neutral rate. Further cuts will be balanced against our historic commitment to public safety, education, environmental protection, and support for those least able to help themselves.

The commissioners agreed to apply the same cap on increases for all taxing districts, including the district tax for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and fire department tax rates, subject to consultation with each affected entity.

The commissioners pledged to dedicate 48.1 percent of Orange County’s spending to our public schools, a previously agreed-upon target that maintains a longstanding tradition of superior support for education.

We also directed staff to send letters offering assistance in reviewing and reducing appraised values to the approximately 10 percent of Orange County property owners who saw valuations increase by 40 percent or more. (The average increase was 24 percent.) County staff will assist with appeals through calendar year 2009. The back page of the letter will provide eligibility information for seniors and the handicapped seeking homestead exemptions and circuit breaker assistance under state law.

The Orange County commissioners understand and share concerns raised by taxation, government spending, and shrinking services in these difficult economic times. We remain committed to responding to, and balancing, the needs of all the residents of Orange County.