Durham County taxpayers will see an average 3.7 percent increase in their county tax bills under the 2017-18 budget approved Monday night.
The 2.75 cent per $100 valuation increase in the county tax rate will raise the bill for a house valued at $180,000, the median value in the county, by nearly $50. The new budget cycle starts July 1.
About 1.75 cents of the increase will 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 renovation downtown.
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The remaining 1-cent increase ($3.5 million) will go to schools.
All told, the $633 million budget marks a nearly 8 percent increase in county spending over the current year.
Durham Public Schools, the county’s largest expenditure, will receive a $6.1 million increase to its current local funding of $127 million.
That’s nearly $1.3 million more than the $4.8 million increase that Durham County Manager Wendell Davis recommended in his draft budget in May. Charter schools will receive about 18 percent of those funds, based on enrollment in the 2017-18 school year.
The request falls short of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education’s request of a nearly $11 million increase, but it is significantly higher than DPS Superintendent Bert L’Homme’s recommended budget increase of $3.5 million.
The increase will likely restore the 24 teaching positions and eight assistant principal positions expected to be cut under Davis’ proposed budget, said Nicholas Graber-Grace, a Hillside High School teacher and a member of the Durham Association of Educators.
However, it doesn’t fund a plan to pay teachers for overseeing extra-curricular activities.
In addition, the state budget could result in Durham losing 15.5 English as a second language and gifted student teaching positions, Graber-Grace said.
Commissioner Heidi Carter unsuccessfully asked commissioners Monday night to bump up the tax-rate increase to help address those shortfalls.
Commissioners Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs said it’s unclear at this time exactly how the state budget will affect the school system. The enrollment of students in traditional public schools versus charter schools will also affect the system’s budget.
If the school system faces a significant gap, officials can seek additional funds from the county at a future date, Jacobs said.
Commissioners heard two strong messages from residents, Jacobs said in an interview before the meeting. Some said they support funding teaching positions and other costs that directly affect the classroom. Others expressed concern about increased taxes and property values for seniors and others on fixed incomes.
Reduction in the increase
The overall tax increase dropped by a quarter-cent from the 3-cent tax rate increase Davis outlined in May.
An increase in collected sales tax revenue over the last couple of months let the county increase revenue estimates for next year, said Keith Lane, director of the county’s Budget and Management Services.
The budget also includes $1.5 million in money to pay for the operation of Whitted School, a 144-seat preschool opening 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.
How much will you pay?
The Durham County property tax rate will increase 2.75 cents to 76.79 cents per $100 valuation.
The owner of a house valued at $180,000, the median value in the county, will pay $1,382.22 in county tax, a $49.50 increase.
The city has approved 1.79-cent tax-rate increase.
The combined city and county property tax bill will be $2,422.62, which is $80.64 more than the current year on a home valued at $180,000.