Durham County property owners could see a one-cent tax-rate increase to provide more money for schools, public safety and other local priorities, if county leaders approve a proposed $729.8 million budget.
“Due to a stronger than expected recent and current economy, the county is budgeting better than expected growth for the next fiscal year,” County Manager Wendell Davis said Monday.
He estimates sales and property taxes, before a tax-rate increase, will generate $19.7 million more in the fiscal year beginning July 1, even with the COVID-19 pandemic. But an increase in funding needs, totaling $22.2 million, outpaces the growth, Davis said.
Those needs include more money for public schools, higher pay for county employees and new positions in human services areas. The budget would also fund back-to-work initiatives at Durham Technical Community College and replace old county-owned vehicles, like ambulances.
“I have built into this recommended budget an attempt to alleviate the stress our organization has been under for the past two years, which included significant departmental reductions and no salary increases, while also facing the daunting pandemic aftermath needs of our community,” Davis said.
Davis’ budget recommends an additional $10.1 million for Durham Public Schools, up from the $7.2 million increase the county provided last year, but less than the nearly $18 million increase the district requested.
Overall, the total county budget is increasing by 8%. The general fund budget — which covers public safety, transportation, education, human services, and other government services — is growing by 6.9%.
The Durham County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing for the 2021-22 fiscal year budget at 7 p.m. May 24. The county commissioners may amend the budget before a scheduled vote June 14.
The commissioners did not discuss the budget after Davis’ presentation Monday night.
Durham Public Schools
Durham Public Schools continues to be “by far” the largest recipient of county funding, Davis said.
“In fact, their very size is making it progressively more difficult to find natural growth in revenue, just to support their annual [funding] increases,” he said.
His total budget of $163.3 million for Durham Public Schools is up from $153.2 million last year.
The additional funding would bring the county’s per-student spending up from $3,755 to $3,939.
Enrollment in charter schools has grown by over 700 students, leading to a $1.6 million increase in county funding toward charter schools. DPS enrollment dropped during the pandemic.
Counties must fund charter schools at the same per pupil rate as traditional public schools.
Davis recommends an additional $1.13 million for DPS’ current capital needs, which includes construction and renovation projects.
He also proposes $4.5 million to pay for wear-and-tear maintenance, like repairing windows or leaky roofs. The allocation would be more than the $3.37 million the county provided for capital outlay last year, but less than the district’s request of $6 million.
His spending plan includes $1.9 million to continue supporting a $15 an hour minimum wage for classified staff. Classified staff include cafeteria workers, bus drivers, janitors, instructional assistants and substitute teachers.
How much is a penny on the tax rate?
Adding a penny would raise the property tax rate from 71.22 to 72.22 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
The owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay $2,166.60 in county property tax, a $30 increase.
In total, the additional penny would generate about $4.58 million for the county.
City property owners pay an additional city tax.
New positions at Durham County
Davis proposes 48 new full-time-equivalent job position across departments.
They include 20 new staff members for Bull City United, the county’s violence interruption team. The city is covering most of the cost, about $935,000, with the county paying $291,000.
The budget also recommends:
▪ Three Sheriff’s Office positions, including a clinical addiction specialist and a health care worker.
▪ Three employees for the Department of Social Services to support a property tax relief program.
▪ Two racial equity-related positions, including a racial equity specialist and a community analyst.
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