Durham sets $381 million budget for 2013-14

jwise@newsobserver.comJune 17, 2013 

— City Council members Monday night approved a $381 million budget for 2013-14, including a new $1.80 monthly charge for home garbage collection.

Council Members Diane Catotti and Steve Schewel had their votes recorded as “no” on the fee. During budget meetings, they advocated a property-tax increase instead of a fee they said put more of a burden on low-income customers than the affluent.

Mayor Bill Bell said he would not vote for a tax increase “under any circumstances,” and Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden said she had heard a great deal of opposition to any raise in property taxes.

City Manager Tom Bonfield initially proposed a $1.50 garbage fee dedicated to maintaining the city’s garbage truck fleet, along with increases to the costs of daily and monthly DATA bus passes to help cover a $1.6-million shortfall projected for the bus system next year.

Instead, Bell suggested increasing the garbage fee to serve both the truck fleet and the DATA shortfall. Council members approved the idea by consensus.

An appropriation to buy land and finish design for the 1.2-mile West Ellerbe Creek Trail, which had also generated complaints, was left at $75,000. Trail advocates wanted $250,000, to fully match a federal grant they claimed might be lost otherwise, but according to city Transportation Director Mark Ahrendsen the city may not access the grant until all property is in hand and designing is final.

Money for the full match is projected for the city budget in 2014-15, Bonfield said.

Next year’s total budget is about $7.8 million, or 2 percent, higher than 2012-13. Spending and revenue are balanced, as state law requires, even though early projections for 2013-14 income showed a $5.2 million shortfall.

Costs for public safety and public transportation, particularly have risen, Bonfield said, and growth in property- and sales-tax receipts “did not occur to the extent we had projected.”

Regular employees are getting a 2 percent raise, police and firefighters 3 percent to 5 percent.

There are also increases in downtown parking rates of $10 per month and $1 for special events, as recommended by a parking-needs analysis consultants finished this spring. A charge for currently free on-street parking downtown was also recommended, but is not part of next year’s budget.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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