Budget director: Chatham on pace to exceed annual budget by $2 million

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PITTSBORO — Chatham County Finance Director Darrell Butts told the county commissioners Monday that despite the economic impacts of the global pandemic, the growth of the county’s tax base has remained steady in the first seven months of the current fiscal year and will lead to an expansion of the county’s budget by roughly $2 million.

“Actual collections are about $1.7 million ahead of last year,” Butts stated during the board’s work session. “We’ve collected nearly $12.5 million, so that’s pretty rapid growth.”

Butts stated that six of the seven collection months in fiscal year 2022 have exceeded the same time period in fiscal year 2021 with the exception of January 2022.

“January collections were lower than last year by about 7 percent or $100,000,” Butts said. “It was actually the lowest month we had and since February of 2021.”

Butts said the area where this trend is most evident is Article 46 sales tax, otherwise known as the one-quarter cent county sales and use tax.

The county budgeted $1.6 million in Article 46 sales tax receipts for fiscal year 2022, allocating $1 million of that revenue towards education and the remaining $600,000 toward affordable housing, agricultural preservation and enhancement and parks & recreation projects.

“We’re $39,000 and some change over budget through seven months” in collections, Butts stated. “So at the regular meeting in May, we’ll be bringing a budget amendment to you to amend that Article 46 budget. We are on pace to exceed that that budget by between $900,000 and $1 million.”

The county’s annual budget is $155,448,460.

Cara Townsend, Vaya Health’s director of community relations, presented a map to the board depicting Vaya Health’s service area, which includes Chatham, during Monday’s work session. Vaya Health manages publicly funded behavioral health and intellectual and developmental disabilities services in 23 western North Carolina counties, including Chatham County.

Board Chairperson Karen Howard asked Townsend how Chatham residents living in the far reaches of the county would access mental health services if they are living just outside Vaya Health’s service map area.

“We’re looking at creative ways,” Townsend answered. “We can have some providers come to Chatham County who aren’t based here, so they could be based in Raleigh, and they can come here to do visits or assessments, but we are working through that.”

Townsend stated Vaya Health had formed a work group to address a number of concerns raised by local stakeholders with regard to Chatham residents needing behavioral health services who could easily fall through the cracks. Townsend acknowledged that, at present, Chatham County does not have a domestic violence shelter or a homeless shelter.

Commissioner Diana Hales pointed out that Chatham County had previously partnered with Orange County to pool their mental health resources when Cardinal Health served as the county’s behavioral health services provider. Townsend informed Hales that based on Vaya Health’s service area map, Chatham would now partner with Alamance County to address future behavioral health needs.

“What type of relationship or partnerships do you have with the school district?” Commissioner Robert Logan asked Townsend. “How is that working?”

“It’s working well,” Townsend said. “It could always be better. We’re looking for creative solutions… I would love to work with you to figure out solutions.”

Commissioners also recognized Shawn Poe, executive director of Chatham Trades Inc., at Monday’s work session. Poe told the board that Chatham Trades is currently celebrating its 42nd year of serving intellectually and developmentally disabled adults in Chatham County, and Chatham Trades was recently named an inaugural community grant recipient of the N.C. Dept. of Labor’s Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program or SHARP.

The SHARP Program is designed for small- and mid-size employers that have established, implemented and maintained exceptional workplace safety standards, according to the state agency’s website.

Poe played a short video about the Siler City nonprofit, whose mission is to assist individuals in attaining goals enabling them to function at their highest degree of self-sufficiency and to integrate into the community.

“I just felt like it was important for the commissioners to see what others are seeing in the community,” Poe said at the conclusion of the presentation, “and we certainly appreciate all the support that the county has given to us through the years.”

Howard was visibly moved by Poe’s presentation.

“As a parent of a special needs child, this touches me so deeply,” Howard said. “He’s a high functioning autistic individual, and I don’t know whether he will need the kind of services you offer but to know that our community values these individuals — as human beings, as contributors — as an integral part of our community ...

“It’s just such a wonderful thing and to see the collaborations that came together to make all of this possible — to know that our county staff is as deeply committed to ensuring that all of us have a place at home in Chatham County,” Howard added.

Other meeting business

• Commissioners approved a request to accept $16,444 from the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services to help fund a portion of local expenditures created by state-mandated food, lodging and institution sanitation program. The funds will be administered by the Chatham County Public Health Department.

• Commissioners also approved a resolution to submit a $400,000 grant application to the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality to underwrite a feasibility study for a proposed new regional water treatment plant. In addition, county commissioners approved the acceptance of a $2,500 grant on behalf of the Equity for Moms and Babies Across Chatham, or EMBRACe project, from the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at UNC-Chapel Hill.

• Finally, Commissioner Logan lavished praise on the Chatham County Schools’ One Chatham initiative, saying he was very impressed by the event held April 8 at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center.

“I attend a lot of school district strategic planning sessions such as that, and that one was done as well as any I’ve seen across this country,” Logan said. “I’m very comfortable knowing that this Board of Education and the school district are doing their jobs, and they are looking at this through an inclusive community approach.”

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners will hold its next regular meeting on Monday, May 2, at 6 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Pittsboro.

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