The Town of Hillsborough’s Board of Commissioners (BOC) has approved a $22 million budget for fiscal year 2019-20 as of June 10.
“I believe our budget represents good stewardship of our limited resources,” Mayor Tom Stevens said in a Town of Hillsborough press release. “We have a thoughtful process of creating the budget, in a sensible multi-year format, with care to allocate funds in support of town staff to do their work well and do it right. In the long run, that delivers the best value for the citizens we serve.”
The budget will go into effect on July 1, at the start of the new fiscal year.
It is composed of $10.6 million in General Fund expenses, $10.8 million in Water and Sewer Fund expenses and just over $650,000 in Stormwater Utility Fund expenses. The budget is $600,000 less than the budget for fiscal year 2018-19.
The budget does not include a tax rate change, making this the seventh year in a row that the Town of Hillsborough has kept tax rates the same.
Water and sewer rates will increase five percent each. The average residential customer uses 3,864 gallons per month. Based on this average usage, the average in-town customer will pay $1.70 more per month for water and $2.51 more per month for sewer, and the average out-of-town customer will pay $3.32 more per month for water and $4.91 more per month for sewer.
These increases are being implemented to cover the roughly $14.5 million West Fork Eno Reservoir expansion and 2014’s roughly $18 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade.
Other causes of the rate increases are the loss of the Efland-Cheeks sewer customers to the Mebane system in 2019 -- a loss of over $350,000 annually for the Town of Hillsborough -- and a decreased use of non-recurring revenues to balance the budget, meaning that the town “must minimize use of development fee revenues and savings to responsibly maintain the water and sewer system, maintain the AA rating for bonds sold to expand the reservoir, and plan for unexpected costs during the expansion” according to Town of Hillsborough materials.
Budget highlights include the repaving of five percent of town streets, which is part of a plan to repave streets on a 20 year cycle. This project will cost an estimated $360,500, and $175,000 of this will come from gas tax revenues allocated to Hillsborough by the State Street-Aid program, also known as the Powell Bill.
The budget also includes an increased payment to Orange Rural Fire Department for fire protection services to help cover an increase in operating costs, which will cost about $43,000.
Two positions will see an increase in hours. The public information officer position will go from 28 to 40 hours per week, costing an estimated $13,000. The part-time fire inspector will go from 8 to 16 hours weekly and also be allocated a vehicle, costing an estimated $18,000.
An unfilled community policing position will be converted to an assistant police chief position that will address staffing, training and operational needs -- this position will cost about $45,000.
Another roughly $315,000 will go towards implementing a $15 minimum wage. Market rate adjustments and mid-year performance evaluation adjustments will also be implemented, and will be covered by around $35,000 from the General Fund and $10,000 from the Water and Sewer Fund.
The budget was approved after a May 28 public hearing, and includes Hillsborough’s balanced scorecard, a system of measures used in the annual budget process to implement and communicate the mission, vision and strategy of Hillsborough’s BOC. The budget also includes departmental scorecards and maps of how priorities and strategies for each department.