After years of pressure from the Chapel Hill Town Council, the Orange County commissioners acknowledge that county residents aren't paying their fair share to fund the town library that serves them. County Manager Frank Clifton suggested a potential doubling of the county's contribution toward operating expenses, which would tally about $500,000, approximately 22 percent of the library's annual cost. Clifton will work with Town staff to bring back a specific proposal by the end of January, but it's not likely to include a county capital contribution to the town's $16 million library expansion plan.
"We just don't have that flexibility," Commissioner Mike Nelson told the Assembly of Governments, which brought together elected officials from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the county tonight. "I don't want anybody to leave the room with false hope."
About 40 percent of registered patrons at the Chapel Hill Public Library live in Carrboro or other parts of Orange County outside Chapel Hill.
"This is just more of the same," said Town Council member Jim Ward. "It has been the same discussion for the better part of two decades."
His colleague Matt Czajkowski said the town may need to start charging non-Chapel Hill residents $100 a year in order to offset the costs of serving them.
"That's the decision we're going to have to make if we're going to decide to go forward with the expansion this spring," he said.