For the second year in a row, Durham County residents will pay higher property taxes.
The Durham County Board of Commissioners approved a nearly $550.6 million county budget by a 4-1 vote Monday.
The spending plan raises the countywide tax rate 2.4 percent, or 1.87 cents per $100 of assessed property value, to support increased expenses and help pay off bond-funded capital projects.
The new county tax rate is 79.31 cents per $100. The owner of a $200,000 house will pay $1,586.20, a $37.40 increase.
Last year, the commissioners raised the rate 3 cents per $100. It was the first increase since the county’s 2010-11 budget.
Durham Public Schools, the biggest item in the general fund budget, received $629,835 more than last year’s allocation. The budget provides a total of $120.1 million. An additional $30.1 million is allocated for DPS debt service.
The budget includes $75,000 for a program that supports open-space projects with matching state and federal grants. At a June 9 public hearing, several community members spoke in favor of the program, which was cut out of the original budget proposal.
Commissioner Fred Foster voted against the budget, as he did last year. He said the plan did not take into account increased revenue anticipated next fiscal year and said he wanted more money devoted to fighting poverty and inequality.
“This year we are continuing to not return an investment to the taxpayers by going up on their taxes, and that’s the only sticking point for me,” he said.
Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said the county needs to do more multiyear budget planning, which would address some of the long-term issues Foster raised.
Commissioner Wendy Jacobs disagreed with Foster’s saying the budget does not do enough to fight inequality.
“In fact, most of Durham County’s budget is about investing in people in our community so they can have a better life,” she said, pointing to education spending as one example.
Commissioner Brenda Howerton commended new County Manager Wendell Davis for getting the budget done in less than two months since he took over the position.
“This is a good budget,” Howerton said. “We appreciate your hard work.”
The commissioners also heard again from opponents to the county’s contract with security firm G4S, which has been accused of human rights violations in Israel, Palestine and South Africa.
The county hires the firm to provide security at libraries and parking lots.
About 10 people showed up with neon signs to protest against the firm.
Board Chairman Michael Page said the commissioners are scheduled to meet with the company in August.
The board also heard Monday from political activist Victoria Peterson, who proposed a stipend program for teenagers in the county that might keep them out of trouble with the law.