Proposed Property Tax Rate Increase of 0.6 Cent
City Manager Wanda Page presented her proposed FY2022-2023 budget at the May 16 City Council meeting, which contains a property tax rate increase to help support the restoration of merit-based employee compensation as well as public safety and shared prosperity initiatives.
Page’s recommended total preliminary budget is $568.9 million, which is a 7.4% increase from last year’s adopted budget, primarily due to increases in the General Fund, Water and Sewer and Stormwater Funds for infrastructure improvements, and the Debt Service Fund to provide for capital infrastructure.
- Proposed Tax Rate Increase: Page recommended a proposed property tax rate of 55.77 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is a 0.6 cent tax rate increase from the previous fiscal year’s rate of 55.17 cents. If approved by the City Council next month, the proposed tax rate will generate a City of Durham property tax bill of about $1,311 per year, or about $109 per month, on a house valued at the median house value of $235,133 according to the Durham County Office of Tax Administration.
- City Employee Compensation: According to Page, the additional funds from the tax rate increase will be used to help provide City employees classified as general employees with a 3% market-rate salary increase as well as restoration of the City’s pay-for-performance merit system for all employees, both general and sworn. Police and Fire sworn employees received market-rate salary increases of 15% and 14.7%, respectively, in January 2022. For the past two years, merit-based salary increases have been suspended for all employees due to the continued financial uncertainty related to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I think about the past two years and everything we’ve been through as a community and a country, I feel such gratitude for our employees and their continued public service,” Page said. “During a time, cited by many as the ‘Great Resignation,’ our employees continued to perform their duties and showed up each and every day for our city even though they had not received merit-based pay raises for two years. It’s time we recognized their continued service and reward them for a job well done by restoring our merit-based pay system, which was designed to annually reward employees based on the quality of their job performance.”
- Public Safety: Page also recommended funding to begin implementation of new pilot programs in the Community Safety Department, specifically the Crisis Call Diversion, Co-Response, Care Navigation, and Community Response Team pilots. Funding is also included to continue the Durham Expunction and Restoration (DEAR) Program as well as a one-year pilot of the ShotSpotter technology.
- Affordable Housing: Page also shared more about the results-to-date of ‘Forever Home, Durham,’ the City’s $160 million program to create affordable opportunities for renters and homeowners. To date, this program has created 662 rental units, preserved 261 rental units, and provided nearly 1,300 households with assistance to stay in their homes. Page also noted that her proposed budget includes $500,000 to support the Durham County Long-Time Homeowner Grant Program for residents at or below 80% of the area median income. This program awards grants to qualifying recipients to help reduce the amount of their property taxes due.
- Digital Inclusion: Page’s proposed spending plan also includes funding for a new Digital Inclusion Program Manager to begin working with community partners on programs to ensure all City residents have access to the internet and understand how to use this technology in areas such as education, health care, and employment opportunities.
- Youth Career Exploration & Business Support Programs: Funding is also included to support paid summer youth career exploration, pathway discovery, and ready-to-work programs; local businesses through the Momentum 360 Financial Academy Training Program, which provides coaching, mentoring and training for businesses in recovery from the impact of COVID-10 shutdowns; and Hispanic Ecosystem and Outreach Program aimed at developing a marketing, outreach, and technical assistance program that specifically targets Hispanic entrepreneurs; and continuing the Durham Legacy Business Program which helps to retain, expand, and transition Durham's long-standing small, women- and minority-owned businesses with succession planning and targeted technical assistance.
- COVID-19: Page also focused her attention on the organization’s continued COVID-19 recovery efforts, citing how federal funds will be allocated to continue providing fare-free service for all GoDurham riders in the coming fiscal year.
- Street Maintenance: Since street paving and maintenance continues to be a significant concern for residents responding to the 2021 Resident Satisfaction Survey, the proposed budget maintains funding for street paving at $10 million.
- Water System Rehabilitation: The City will invest $102.2 million for water system rehabilitation, upgrading and increasing the City’s future water supply through Jordan Lake and Teer Quarry projects as well as Lake Michie and Little River construction needs. A modest increase of about 3.9% in water and sewer rates as well as a stormwater rate increase of 0.93 cents per month are also included in the proposed budget.
Next Steps in the Budget Approval Process
City Council and City staff will review the proposed budget details at budget work sessions on May 25 and May 26. These in-person work sessions will begin at 9 a.m. in City Hall’s Council Chambers and be livestreamed to the City’s YouTube channel as well as Durham Television Network to enable as many residents as possible to watch the departmental budget presentations.
A public hearing is scheduled for the proposed budget on Monday, June 6 at 7 p.m. with final budget approval set for Tuesday, June 21 at 7 p.m.