Durham city taxes could rise 3.6 percent under proposed budget

Property owners in Durham, already facing a possible county tax increase, could see a slightly higher city tax bill in the coming year as well.

City Manager Tom Bonfield’s proposed budget calls for a new tax rate of 53.34 cents per $100 of assessed property value, a 3.6% increase after the county’s recent revaluation.

The owner of a median-priced home in Durham, which is $229,246, according to the county tax office, would pay a city property tax bill of $1,223.

The county is also considering a tax increase.

County Manager Wendell Davis’ recommended $657.5 million plan calls for a 3.3% county tax increase. The owner of the $229,246 house would pay a county tax bill of $1,632.69, for a combined city and county bill of $2,855.69.

Bonfield’s $476.2 million plan is $34.8 million less than the current fiscal year’s $510.4 million city budget. He attributed the difference to a small financial transfer for capital projects to improve the city’s water and sewer service.

The proposed budget enhances equity citywide, Bonfield said.

“It certainly would be less complicated to develop and present a budget guided by our core municipal obligations: roads, water and parks,” he said. “The reality is that we as a community can no longer afford to overlook issues that have been staring us in the face for so long.”

The proposed budget calls for

$12.65 million for affordable housing and the city’s existing housing repair program

$2.4 million for the new Participatory Budgeting initiative, which will give residents a say in neighborhood projects

$300,000 for technical support of the proposed Bull City Foundation to fund summer internships through the Summer Youth Work Internship Program

The Durham Police Department would get 18 new officers for a new program in District 4 that will restructure officers’ beats and work schedules.

Most city employees would get an average 4% raise, while fire and police workers would get an average 5% raise. The plan also calls for hiring 47 new employees

The street resurfacing program would grow to $10 million to address ongoing maintenance needs.

Bonfield’s proposal calls for nearly $118 million in water and sewer improvements in the coming year. Water and sewer rates would rise by 2.8% for customers.

Councilman Charlie Reece said he looks forward to getting into the details in the coming weeks.

“This presentation gives me a lot of hope for this budget,” Reece said. “It’s a lot different over last year. This is really a time for us to choose what we want out of city government”

Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson said she wants to hear more ideas from Durham residents about the budget.

“I want to make sure folks know that we’re incorporating ideas brought to us from the community,” said said. “I want to see that collaboration bear fruit this year.”

About two dozen people spoke during the public comment period.

Many questioned the need for 18 more police officers. Others asked the council to increase pay for part-time city workers to bring it in line with the $15 per hour minimum paid to full-time city workers.

The proposed budget can be reviewed online at bit.ly/2HF5bBs or at the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall.

What’s next

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held Monday, June 3, in the City Council Chamber in Durham City Hall. The City Council plans to vote on the proposed budget June 17.

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.