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Local Business Perspective on the County Budget and Importance of Community College Expansion

Local Business Perspective on the County Budget and Importance of Community College Expansion

*The following email was sent from Chamber President & CEO Aaron Nelson to the Orange County Commissioners on June 7, 2021.

To: Orange County Commissioners
From: Aaron Nelson
Date: June 7, 2021
Subject: Local business perspective on the budget and importance of community college expansion

Orange County Commissioners

On behalf of The Chamber, representing more than 700 local employers, we ask that you consider these five points from your local business community in your budget discussions and financial planning:  

  • (Tax Increase will be Difficult for Small Businesses) As you know, in most retail and restaurant lease terms, the tenant is responsible for paying the property taxes. Many small, local businesses are still reeling from the lock-down, are struggling with increased debt, managing major revenue losses, and now scraping together the necessary salaries to secure workers for the start of a post-pandemic economy. Indeed, the timing of a tax increase is difficult for local businesses.

  • (Revaluation Compounds the Commercial Tax Increase Challenges) While the increase in value of commercial property has long-term implications worth celebrating, it comes with acute, negative short-term impacts. In this revaluation, commercial properties more than residential will feel the immediate effects with the tax bill including both the effects of increased value, compounded by any tax increase. Even a revenue neutral tax rate will result in many local businesses paying more and any increase above the neutral rate will add additional costs to operating a local business.

  • (Strong Current and Projected Workforce Needs) As our local economy emerges from the pandemic, workforce needs are magnified like our Chamber has never seen. Local employers, especially those in the health care, skilled trades, logistics, and hospitality sectors are offering more than a living wage, yet cannot find the employees they need to fill the roles. This strong demand is projected to continue in the next decade.

  • (Opportunity Inequities) Orange County’s greatest export is our young people. We raise talented young minds, many of whom go on to universities and employment across the state and nation.  For those who remain, Orange County offers limited local employment and educational opportunities after high school.

  • (Investing in the Future) Funding the scheduled expansion of the Durham Tech campus will help meet growing employer demand for skilled workers, provide opportunities for underserved students and re-careering adults to earn a family-sustaining wage, and generate a measurable financial return on the investment for the community with strong social dividends. While balancing the budget may require reducing expenses in certain areas, we encourage you to make strong investments in areas most important for recovery and the long-term economic success of our county, most especially post-secondary education. 

Small businesses understand that the cost of running a business like the County increases over time, but they also know that there are limits to when and how much the customer can be asked to pay more for the service. Please adopt a budget that considers local business pain points, prioritizes the recovery and long-term economic success of our community, and invests in strengthening and expanding our community college

In partnership, 

Aaron Nelson

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