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More police are not in Durham’s new city budget. Here’s what is.

City of Durham logo on the side of City Hall.
City of Durham logo on the side of City Hall. dvaughan@newsobserver.com

The Durham City Council adopted a $477.8 million budget Monday night that raises city workers’ minimum pay but provides no money for more police officers.

“We’ve heard from a lot of different voices in this community with a lot of different opinions about how we handle the critical decisions that are in front of us,” Mayor Steve Schewel said. “We’ve shown the people in the city that our values as a community can be reflected in our budgets.”

Pay for part-time and seasonal workers will rise to a minimum of $15 per hour to be in line with Durham’s living wage commitment.

But the Police Department won’t get the 18 additional officers that City Manager Tom Bonfield and Police Chief C.J. Davis had sought.

The budget passed by a 6-1 vote.

Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton, who supported the extra officers, cast the lone no vote.

“I think this is a missed opportunity,” Middleton said. “This budget is magnificent. We are raising wages of our part-time workers. We’re starting to work on on economic development. But as a message to those who have been crying out for us to do something, for those who felt that their voices have not been heard, I will not be supporting this budget.”

The police officers were included in the proposed budget Bonfield presented last month but the council swapped them out in favor of the part-time pay raises during a City Council work session June 6.

Budget supporters said the new spending plan addresses numerous equity issues long ignored by previous city councils.

The budget includes $300,000 to create the Bull City Foundation, which is modeled after successful municipal economic foundations. There is funding for 50 more students to participate in the Summer Youth Work Internship Program. It serves about 300 students and has a goal of hiring 1,000 youth in five years.

Nearly $125,000 will be used for the city’s equitable community engagement program, which includes money for a dedicated full-time position to focus on Latino community engagement.

“I think this budget goes a long way towards meeting a lot of our policy goals,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson. “I’m very excited to see what comes out of the [Equity and Inclusion Office]. We’re increasing the amount of money that we’re dedicating to affordable housing. I’m thrilled that we’re raising all of our part-time workers to a livable wage in recognition of the very valuable work all those people do for city.”

The City Council set the new property tax rate at 53.17 cents, a 1.72 cent or 3.3% increase from the revenue neutral rate of 51.45 cents.

The new tax rate generates a tax bill of about $1,219 per year on a house valued at $229,246, which is the median house value for the city of Durham according to the Durham County Office of Tax Administration.

The final budget maintains 2 cents on the tax rate dedicated for affordable housing, while appropriating $5.7 million from the fund balance to support the city’s affordable housing plan. It also includes money for the existing housing repair program to address non-code-compliant homes that are occupied by low-income homeowners.

Durham County Manager Wendell Davis presented a $657.5 million spending plan to county commissioners Monday at their regular meeting. His budget gives the Durham Public Schools less than it requested.

Budget highlights

The street resurfacing fund will receive $10 million for ongoing street maintenance, a $1 million increase.

The budget has $2.4 million for participatory budgeting projects. Residents voted for projects in May, and the top projects will be implemented.

While the Police Department did not get the additional patrol officers, it did get two fingerprint processing positions for the Forensics Unit to address an increase in caseloads.

A crisis intervention clinician was also permanently funded within the Police Department to help residents in mental health crisis when they come into contact with police officers. This position had been funded year-to-year through grants from outside sources.

The Fire Department will get money for new helmet identity markers and for personal protective equipment to reduce firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens, bodily fluids, and other chemicals.

The budget has about $118 million for water and sewer improvements including water and sewer rehabilitation, distribution, water residuals, and construction. Users will see a rate increase of 2.8% in their monthly bill.

The Equal Opportunity/Equity Assurance Department will be renamed the Equity and Inclusion Department.

The city is adding its first full-time Chief Equity Officer, who will implement adopted recommendations from the City Council-appointed Racial Equity Task Force, racial equity trainings, and support for equity action planning teams.

The final budget can be viewed on the Budget and Management Services Department webpage. Hard copies may also be reviewed in the City’s Budget and Management Services Department, located on the first floor of City Hall.

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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.
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