Durham County approves budget

Tax rate doesn't change for 2010

Staff WriterJune 23, 2009 

— The county commissioners approved a 2009-10 budget Monday that is 6.2 percent smaller than what they approved a year ago.

The budget passed 5-0, with no public comment. The total budget is $839 million, with a $710 million general fund that covers regular operations. The general fund is larger than in 2008-09, because there is more "pass-through" federal and state money for specific uses.

County revenue for 2008-09 was about $18 million below projections, and all indications are that the downturn will continue. Actual county spending for 2009-10 is $342 million, down from $364 million approved for the current fiscal year.

"It was tough, but we got through," Chairman Michael Page said. "Everybody's trying to do everything they can to help."

The new budget includes a $2.9 million cut in public-school funding that stirred some public opposition earlier this month.

"We had to make some cuts," Commissioner Joe Bowser said. "There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it."

Commissioner Brenda Howerton thanked the citizens of Durham for "understanding what we were up against with this budget."

"They didn't put too much pressure on us," she said.

Durham County's property-tax rate remains 70.81 cents per $100 valuation: $1,770.25 for a house assessed at $250,000.

Some residents and school-board members called for raising taxes to benefit the schools, but the commissioners were adamant from the budget-process start they would not increase taxes on an already burdened public.

"This speaks to Durham County citizens that we are concerned about you," Bowser said.

The budget eliminates 33 positions on the county payroll, but no employees are being laid off.

Employees "gave up their annual raises and longevity [bonuses] so their fellow employees could have jobs," County Manager Mike Ruffin said.

"The good news for our citizens is that most of the services they have come to know and use and rely on will be there," Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said.

Ruffin predicted that the 2010-11 budget process will be equally difficult.

But for now, he said, "Glad that's over."

jim.wise@newsobserver.com or 919-932-2004

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