DURHAM — City Manager Tom Bonfield proposed a $386.7 million city budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, up 2.7 percent from the current year and including an expected 1.29 cent property tax increase.
The increase would raise the city’s tax rate from the current 56.75 cents per $100 valuation to 58.04 cents. That would add $19.35 to the bill for a house valued at $150,000.
City Budget Director Bertha Johnson projected in February that the city would need the increase to cover debt service on street-repaving bonds that voters approved several years ago and to pay police officers and firefighters previously covered by now expired federal stimulus grants.
Bonfield’s budget, released Monday, does not include a dedicated tax increase for parks, which the city recreation department has requested and City Council members have considered; nor does it abolish the $1.80 monthly fee for residential garbage collection that was imposed in 2013 and which several council members have said they would like replaced with a tax increase.
However, the budget does include $4.2 million for park improvements, and Bonfield said the council will get a proposal during budget meetings next week for a half-cent tax increase for park maintenance, which would raise the tax rate to 58.54 cents.
“I anticipate that there will be a lot of the discussion, the solid waste fee will be a lot of the discussion” during those meetings, Bonfield said before making his formal budget proposal during Monday’s council meeting.
If the City Council decides to get rid of the garbage fee, it would have to find a way to make up the $1.39 million it is expected to generate next year. That could mean another small uptick in taxes.
The budget includes an average 3.5 percent raise for police and firefighters, and 3
percent for other city employees. But for the first time since 2008, raises will be “differentiated,” meaning an individual’s pay increase will be based on job performance.
Bonfield’s proposal adds eight positions, while eliminating three and leaving a fourth unfunded. The eliminations “are not necessarily about saving money or balancing the budget,” he said, but rather part of reorganizing staff responsibilities within departments.
Council budget hearings are scheduled for May 28-29 in the City Hall Committee Room. They are open to the public, but public comment is not allowed.