Durham County

Durham County manager recommends 3-cent tax-rate increase

Durham County taxpayers would experience a 3-cent increase in their tax rate under County Manager Wendell Davis’ 2017-18 budget.

About 2 cents of the increase — which equals $7.1 million — would be used for financing and related long-term debt. The debt includes the $170 million in bonds that voters approved in November for Durham Public Schools, Durham Technical Community College, the Museum of Life and Science and the Main Library downtown, Davis said.

The bonds were initially expected to result in a 2.5-cent tax-rate increase, Davis said, but refinancing brought it down to 2 cents.

A quarter-cent of the increase would go to county general fund operational increases (about $888,530), and the remaining three-quarters of a cent ($2.7 million) would go to schools.

In general, Durham Public Schools, the county’s largest expenditure, would get a $4.8 million increase to its current funding of $127 million.

Davis’ budget also includes $1.5 million in money to pay for the operation of Whitted School, a 144-seat preschool scheduled to open in August.

DPS and the county originally agreed to split the cost to run the preschool, but school officials have said a tight budget is making it difficult for them to honor the agreement.

The request falls short of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education request for a nearly $11 million increase.

Durham County is among the top counties in the state with respect to the tax rate, Davis said.

“So it’s certainly a delicate balancing act trying to make sure that we hold taxes as low as we can, recognizing that there are in fact critical needs out there,” he said. “In addition to the schools, we have an entire government enterprise that we have to fund as well. And so what I’ve tried to do is give the schools as much as we can reasonably offer, remain within the construct of our principals of sound financial management and preserve our AAA bond rating.”

Davis said the the budget is above DPS Superintendent Bert L’Homme’s recommended budget increase of $3.5 million.

Davis also pointed out the county also spends $4 million in indirect costs, such as school nurses, social workers school resource officers, on a school system in which the planned pupil allotment has decreased by 1,115 students over the past two fiscal years.

Under the proposed rate, property taxes would increase 3 cents to 77.04 cents per $100 valuation.

The increased county tax rate would result in a $1,386.72 tax bill on a house valued at $180,000, the median value of a house in the city, which is a $54 increase compared to the current county tax rate.

The city is proposing a 1.79-cent tax-rate increase, which would result in a combined city and county property tax bill of $2,428.20 on that value, which is $86.22 more than the current year.

Davis’ proposed $629.9 million budget marks a 7 percent increase over the current year.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

Budget details

Proposed county budget:

County tax rate: Increase from 74.4 cents per $100 in property value to 77.04

County tax bill: $1,386.72 on a house valued at $180,000

Durham Public Schools: $132,742,865, which is $4.8 million increase

County employees: 2 percent to 3 percent raise based on performance