Board Discusses Strategic and Comprehensive Plans at Budget Retreat
Also discussed were major requests, including a proposal to increase stormwater fees.
The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners discussed the in-progress strategic and comprehensive sustainability plans among other topics during a budgetary planning retreat on Saturday at the Town Hall Annex.
As part of the retreat, the mayor and commissioners also received an overview of the financial picture for the town and reviewed capital requests and other key requests for the upcoming fiscal year, including a proposal to increase stormwater fees.
The town manager’s recommended budget will be presented in May, followed by a required public hearing. The board expects to consider adoption of the Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget on June 12. The new fiscal year starts July 1.
Town Manager Eric Peterson provided a look at the budget and financial plan to-do list for fiscal years 2024-26, including continuing to look at employee compensation and how the town compares with other jurisdictions. He noted that compensation will be a high priority item for Orange Rural Fire Department, which will affect the town’s contractual allocations to the agency’s budget.
Peterson said Hillsborough has had 40 to 50% growth in the last five years. He said financial information from Fiscal Year 2022 is being sent to auditors, and return of that audit and the recent completion of the FY2021 audit will provide a clearer picture for decision making in building the upcoming budget. The manager said he thinks the town will end up with some flexibility in decision making because of the care it took in limiting expenditures during the COVID-19 pandemic. He reminded the board that debt service retirements are approaching for a number of projects, which also will help with flexibility in decision making.
Budget and Management Analyst Josh Fernandez led discussion on a list of capital project and other key requests. Board members noted a desire to have a planned skate park built earlier than FY2025 if possible. There was discussion on funding options and whether to seek contributions for the skate park. The manager noted contributions would be welcome if other entities desire but using staff time to seek contributions for a project of the park’s scale would delay the project.
Board members affirmed a desire to allocate the same amount of funding to affordable housing as to sustainability efforts. It was clarified that funding would be incrementally increased until the equivalent of 2 cents of property tax revenue is appropriated annually to cover existing and additional affordable housing items.
A potential increase to stormwater fees was discussed, with Stormwater and Environmental Services Manager Terry Hackett noting the need for an additional stormwater employee because of stormwater construction projects and the number of stormwater devices throughout town that must be monitored. He said the allocation to the Public Works Division for stormwater maintenance also needs to be increased to allow additional people to be hired and equipment to be purchased.
Strategic and comprehensive plans
Administrative Services Director Jen Della Valle provided an update of the Strategic Plan, presenting different aspects of the plan and gathering feedback. The plan, which is still in progress, will outline the town’s goals and the specific initiatives departments will implement to meet the goals. It will serve as a three-year roadmap to aligning resources with the town’s priorities.
Departmental priorities and plan focus areas — The board reviewed a departmental workload template to help provide them with context of priorities departments are working on and additional goals in reserve as discussions of new goals arise. Changes were discussed regarding the plan’s five focus areas — sustainability, connected community, economic vitality, community safety and service excellence. An added equity objective to community safety was further discussed with the board considering guiding questions on what such a community would look like, what the scope would be and what success would look like in three years.
- Ensuring the whole community is meaningfully engaged, with public listening, public meetings, and public feedback received and with purposeful goals, tasks and strategies that can be measured.
- Ensuring every neighborhood feels safe; people feel comfortable with law enforcement interaction; mobility is safe; and race and physical abilities are not factors in safety. Success would be moving in a positive direction in all neighborhoods and in the town’s accessibility.
- Ensuring everyone feels Hillsborough is safe, trustworthy and just, with town services looked at through this lens and a success score over 85% initially but ideally 100%.
- Providing high quality services to everyone with a focus on inclusivity and community connectivity in how people move around and get their information, with the bike-pedestrian infrastructure especially important. This would include ensuring public spaces meet everyone’s needs; law enforcement engages in a consistent, respectful way; policies are enforced consistently throughout town; and public engagement includes approachable staff, comfort in bringing concerns and issues to the town, and the town listening and making changes if needed. Success would be making progress in three years.
Comprehensive Sustainability Plan — Public Space and Sustainability Manager Stephanie Trueblood provided an update of the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, which also is being worked on. She referred the board to a draft implementation matrix for the plan’s climate and sustainability chapter and said the dark green coloring signifies initiatives staff think the board will want as priorities for the next three years. The ultimate priorities will be added to the Strategic Plan’s sustainability focus area.
The board expressed approval for the key priorities discussed, including:
- Adding sustainability and climate initiatives to facility development.
- Right-sizing fleet vehicles and evaluating fleet purchases from financial and energy standpoints.
- Continuing analysis with regional partners on suitable electric vehicle charging sites and types.
- A desire for staff to consider opportunities for micro-transit at facilities, such as cargo e-bikes.
- A need to think about the infrastructure that would be needed to charge town vehicles at employee homes and whether plug-in hybrid vehicles could be an option.
For additional information on the budget process, contact Budget Director Emily Bradford by email or at 919-296-9427.