Chapel Hill Library Funding: Orange County Commissioners Respond, Kind Of…

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Final bit of business from this evening’s Orange County Board of Commissioner’s meeting.

A couple weeks ago, members of the Council, Commissioners, our Town and County managers, met to discuss increasing the County’s financial contribution to Chapel Hill’s Library.

As of today, the County’s current yearly $250K contribution is out-of-line with out-of-town usage. In effect, Chapel Hill subsidizes, and has subsidized by as much as $6M over the last decade, County residents use of our facilities.

If Chapel Hill elects to expand the Library (which it seems at this point Council will do irrespective of fiscal prudence), that subsidy will swell.

Now, it isn’t the County’s fault that Chapel Hill’s Council wants to take on another $1.3M in yearly operational costs (and another $2.3M in yearly bond payments) during the worse economic downturn since the Great Depression but they did commit to answering Council’s pleas for more bucks.

Tonight the County Manager proposed [PDF] to raise the contribution to $500,000 or %50 of Hillsborough’s main library budget (which services Hillsborough and beyond). The increase to $500,000 would be graduated over time and level out.

This is below the initial $700K figure thrown out a few weeks ago and well below the $1.1 million ( of an eventual $2 million OC library services budget) Chapel Hill calculates as the County’s “fair share” of support necessary after the expansion.

FYI, Orange County’s current library services budget – which was reduced by $162,000 in all areas EXCEPT for Chapel Hill’s $250,000 stipend – is now down to $1.2 million.

In other words, while the County’s budget for services outside of Chapel Hill dropped %11.7, Chapel Hill’s, as a percentage of the available funds, increased from %18.1 to %20 – a rare increase in this year’s County budget [PDF].

Below are my notes from this evening’s discussion (video here eventually):

Note: Southwest branch refers to a proposed new facility serving Carrboro and points west. Barry Jacobs suggested opening branch at the County’s Skill Development Center on West Franklin St.

Closing the Door on Diversity

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

One of the issues that got short shrift this election cycle was the relationship between Chapel Hill’s fiscal policy, Downtown’s “rah rah” growth plan, taxes and our goal to promote a diverse community.

We know longtime residents of moderate means struggle to keep their homes. We know folks just starting out can’t get their foot in the door. Often the folks most affected come from our traditional minority neighborhoods.

Many of the current Council crew think the decline of diversity is inevitable – that their policies worsening the situation will eventually pay off but, as I tried to discuss this recent election cycle, at what cost to the wider community?

I guess it’s a matter of “small-d” democratic philosophy. I promoted diversity of thought, diversity of opinion, diversity of community because, at least from my observation, communities that honor those values are stronger for it. “Honor”, by the way, does not mean being satisfied with the renaming roads or creating conditions that escalate the demise of one of our traditionally diverse neighborhoods.

From today’s N&O article on the “panel discussion at UNC’s Wilson Library to celebrate the republication of John Ehle’s 1965 book “The Free Men,” which chronicles Chapel Hill’s desegregation”, folks who have some historical perspective observe those corrosive effects.

Several panelists made the distinction between desegregation and integration and said they feel the latter is lacking in Chapel Hill.

James Foushee, who participated in demonstrations, said, “Chapel Hill is going to become, in the next five years, an all-white town.”

“We have desegregated,” Karen Parker said. “Integration is up to the individual.”

“Blacks are priced out. Are the people of Chapel Hill aware of that? No, they’re not,” said Wayne King, who covered the protests for The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper. “It’s harder to notice that … no black people are having breakfast in the Carolina Coffee Shop. … Would you notice?” he asked the audience.

Mr. King, it is not just racial minorities that are being shown the door. If we keep going down the road plotted out by our current leadership – anyone – elderly, minority, blue collar and of moderate of means – will be unable to afford the ticket to ride.



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