City Manager Tom Bonfield proposed a $386.5-million budget for 2015-16 Monday night, $3.4 million lower than the current fiscal year and holding the property-tax rate at 59.12 cents per $100 valuation.
The budget includes a $170.2-million general fund for day-to-day operations, a $4.8-million decrease from 2014-15.
“Some of that is just the way we account for things,” Bonfield said before presenting his budget to the City Council. For example, a portion of the property tax levied for household garbage collection has been shifted out of the general fund and into a dedicated solid-waste fund.
Durham is losing $2.9 million next year from the state’s elimination of privilege-license fees, or business taxes. Bonfield’s budget covers most of that with another shift, taking about $2.5 million away from debt service and applying it to the general fund.
The proposal anticipates a 6 percent increase in sales-tax revenue, a “ballpark” figure, Bonfield said, based on the current state formula for distributing sales-tax money to local governments.
Changing that formula to send more sales-tax money to rural areas and less to urban counties such as Durham is being considered by the General Assembly, but Bonfield said the legislature is “too unpredictable” to predict what it will do now. State law requires cities to adopt budgets for 2015-16 before the end of June.
Earlier this year, Fire Chief Dan Curia and Police Chief Jose L. Lopez asked the city administration to fund additional firefighters and police officers, but they are not part of the proposed budget.
Bonfield’s budget adds crime analyst and administrative assistant positions in the police department, but no sworn officers or firefighters because he has yet to see specific plans for how those personnel would be deployed.
“We’re working on that now,” he said.
Current officers and firefighters stand to get raises of 3 percent to 5 percent, based on performance; other city employees are recommended for an average pay increase of 3 percent.
A public hearing on the budget proposal, including an online “E-Town Hall” session, is scheduled at 7 p.m. June 1. Copies of the proposed budget are available at nando.com/1ao. Residents may also review hard copies in the City Clerk and budget offices at City Hall.