Durham News

Durham’s proposed budget raises tax rate for housing, free pool time for kids

City of Durham

There’s a lot to unpack in City Manager Tom Bonfield’s budet.

Taxes would go up, for the most part to help provide affordable housing while it can still make a difference amid rising property values.

The city would spend more on road repaving and maintenance, as well as hire 53 new employees.

And kids would get into recreation centers and pools for free.

The proposed $429.4 million budget is a 6.1 percent increase from the current year and would be the largest budget in the city’s history.

How much would my tax bill go up?

The tax rate would rise 1.79 cents to 57.86 cents per $100 of assessed property value, a 3.2 percent increase.

That would generate a city tax bill of $1,041 on a $180,000 house, the median house value for the city. The average homeowner would pay $32 more a year.

If passed, the budget would mark the fourth straight tax-rate increase since the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Affordable housing

The proposed budget adds an extra penny to the dedicated housing fund, raising the tax-rate allocation for affordable housing from 1 cent to 2 cents. Each penny would raise about $2.75 million. Another $3 million would come from federal sources.

Some of the money would go to homeless services, but that additional penny would push the annual amount the City Council could spend on affordable housing to about $8 million a year.

If the budget is approved, city officials would ask the council to divide that money among five categories.

“What we want to try to avoid is to have each of those groupings compete against each other,” Bonfield said. Once the allocations are set, the city would then begin considering proposals for that money, Bonfield said.

The categories are:

▪ New homeownership.

▪ New rental properties.

▪ Preservation of existing affordable rental properties, such as tax credit projects.

▪ Durham Housing Authority.

▪ Neighborhood stabilization, such as repairs of existing housing or helping some owners cover their property taxes.

Roads

The street resurfacing fund would receive a $2.6 million boost above the current $4 million included in recurring paving expenditures, Bonfield said.

The change would more than double funding for paving and street maintenance to $6.6 million, addressing one of residents’ top concerns in a recent survey.

Youth

The budget calls for eliminating admission fees for those under 18 at all of the city’s recreation centers and pools starting June 1.

The change, which would cost $41,800, would address longstanding concerns about opportunities for youth as well as whether the recreation centers are being fully used.

The city also plans to build a more robust teen program at four of the seven recreation centers, as well as expand after-school programs at W.D. Hill Recreation Center, Campus Hills Recreation Center, Holton Career and Resource Center and Walltown Park Recreation Center.

The city also plans to increase marketing for the youth facilities, which would include hiring a teen at each center to be a part-time marketer and social media coordinator. The total program would cost about $154,751.

“We hear continuously that even a dollar admission fee is a barrier to kids participating,” Bonfield said. “So we want to just get rid of all those barriers, or potential barriers, for our kids participating.”

Employees

The budget adds 53 positions, including 30 new firefighters to staff a new fire station in southeast Durham.

City employees would receive an average a 4 percent performance increase, 5 percent for public safety workers.

The city is also changing its personnel policy to allow 12 weeks of paid parental leave starting July 1.

Bull City Connector

Duke University has indicated it will cut in half its $350,000 in funding for the Bull City Connector this coming fiscal year and end funding the next.

City officials will have to evaluate the free downtown bus that costs about $1.1 million annually.

Other increases

Rates for monthly users of city garages will increase from $65 a month to $85. Monthly surface lot fees will increase from $55 a month to $70.

Water and sewer fees will rise an average 2.6 percent.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

What’s next

The city will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at the City Council’s June 5 meeting. The council will vote at its June 19 meeting.

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