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The original item was published from 5/15/2023 5:50:00 PM to 6/6/2023 12:00:01 AM.

News Flash

City of Durham News

Posted on: May 15, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Proposed Budget Highlights Public Safety, Fare-Free Buses & Disinvested Neighborhood Improvements

Graphic with highlights of proposed Fiscal Year 2023-2024 Budget

No Property Tax Rate Increase Proposed

City Manager Wanda Page presented her proposed FY2023-2024 budget at tonight’s City Council meeting, which does not include a property tax rate increase.

What You Need to Know

  • No property tax rate increase proposed; rate remains 55.77 cents per $100 of assessed value.
  • Budget expands public safety, transportation support, and enhanced and equitable green spaces as well as increases employee compensation.
  • Residents are encouraged to share their feedback at the final budget public hearing on June 5.

Page’s recommended total proposed budget is $610 million, which is a 6.95% increase from last year’s adopted budget, primarily due to General Fund increases for personnel expenses and increases to the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for street paving and other projects.

Page recommended the property tax rate of 55.77 cents per $100 of assessed value remain the same as last year’s adopted budget. If approved by the City Council next month, the tax rate will generate a City of Durham property tax bill of about $1,364 per year, or about $114 per month, on a house valued at $244,538, which is the median house value for the City of Durham according to the Durham County Office of Tax Administration.

According to Page, steady growth in real property and motor vehicle taxes, robust sales and occupancy tax collections, and increases in other State-shared revenues will help provide funding needed for expanded public safety initiatives, increased transportation support, well-deserved employee compensation as well as $17 million in new projects to improve open spaces and infrastructure in previously disinvested neighborhoods, which typically have been communities of color.

Funding for 61 new full-time positions is provided to increase staffing resources for the work of 11 departments. Of those 61 new FTEs, Page recommended funding to hire 27 new Community Safety Department employees to expand the department’s Holistic Empathetic Assistance Response Teams, also known as HEART.

HEART's four crisis response teams are Crisis Call Diversion, which embeds mental health clinicians in the Durham Emergency Communications Center; Community Response, which dispatches unarmed three-person teams as first responders to non-violent behavioral health and quality of life calls for service; Care Navigation, which follows up with people after meeting with one of the HEART first responders to help connect them to community-based care; and Co-Response, which pairs clinicians with Durham police officers to respond to certain calls for service that pose a greater potential safety risk.

The additional 27 staff will allow HEART teams to provide citywide service seven days a week for 12 hours a day, enabling the HEART teams to handle three times as many calls as they do now.

Funding is also included to continue the Durham Expunction and Restoration (DEAR) Program as well as increase financial support for Durham County Government’s Project Build Gang Intervention and Bull City United programs.

Page also recommended funding 16 new firefighter positions and one new fire inspector position in the Durham Fire Department as well as more than $3.6 million to purchase two new ladder trucks to support growth needs in the northern and eastern areas. The department will also receive $4.6 million to replace self-contained breathing apparatuses.

For Page, a critical component of her proposed budget is to reward City employees for their dedicated service during continued, demanding circumstances due to staff vacancies. “I want to make it clear that I value our employees for doing what it takes to get the job done in today’s challenging environment. It’s no secret that the City of Durham, like most municipalities and private-sector employers, is experiencing a shortage of workers in several areas, especially our Public Safety and Operations departments – areas that are critical to providing vital services, including keeping our city safe, providing safe drinking water, and collecting garbage for our residents,” Page said. “I can say, without reservation, that our employees have stepped up to ensure the services our residents expect didn’t miss a beat.”

In Page’s proposed budget, general employees will receive a 2% market adjustment increase, a 4% to 6% pay-for-performance merit system increase, and an end-of-year appreciation bonus of $300. Police and Fire sworn employees will receive a 2% pay structure adjustment, a 5% pay-for-performance merit system increase, and an end-of-year appreciation bonus of $300. The Durham Minimum Livable Wage will also be adjusted from $17.60 per hour to $18.46 per hour. The proposed budget also includes funding for a Classification and Compensation Study to ensure the City remains competitive to attract new and retain current employees.

Page also shared more about Forever Home, Durham, the City’s $160 million program to create affordable opportunities for renters and homeowners as well as to stabilize neighborhoods. Three completed affordable housing projects thus far have added 339 units, and four other projects with an additional 88 units have either started or are in construction. The City has also either awarded or committed $42.5 million to create or preserve 1,036 units. 

Funding is also included to enhance the Fayetteville Street corridor. The proposed budget includes $10 million to help create a sense of place for this historic area. This funding will support a variety of efforts, including residential and commercial real estate programs, small business support, and street, sidewalk, and landscape improvements.

Page’s proposed spending plan includes funding to further support transit efforts by continuing fare-free service for all GoDurham riders through June 30, 2024. Funding is also included to hire a transportation planner to implement the Transportation Department’s Vision Zero Durham program, which is designed to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. Additionally, funding is provided for a transportation planner to help with bus route planning, schedule creation, program development, equitable community engagement coordination, and the Way to Go Durham program, which works to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips.

Approximately $600,000 in funding will continue support for the Durham YouthWorks Program, which provides paid summer youth career exploration, pathway discovery, and ready-to-work programs for youth ages 14 to 24. New for this year, $50,000 in funding is provided to support a new Vocational Apprenticeship Pilot Program to up-skill Durham workers and provide non-college track individuals with sustainable employment as well as $50,000 in new funding for a Durham Mentoring Alliance Pilot Program to provide a one-stop shop for community members to get current and accurate information regarding youth mentoring services.

The proposed CIP budget includes $306.2 million for new projects and will continue to complete existing projects. Funding is included for $84.7 million in General CIP projects that were deemed a priority and essential to the City’s capital infrastructure needs, and an additional $17 million designated through the Equitable and Green Infrastructure process. These more than 20 projects will provide enhanced and equitable green spaces at parks in disinvested neighborhoods as well as fund water quality projects, new sidewalks in Bragtown, East Durham, and Merrick-Moore communities, and pedestrian safety, access, and traffic calming projects.

Since street conditions continue to be a significant concern for residents responding to the 2022 Resident Satisfaction Survey, the proposed budget provides $15 million for street paving and maintenance.

There is an additional $204.7 million of CIP funding dedicated to Water and Sewer, Stormwater, and Solid Waste projects. A $2.20 monthly increase for Tier 2 water and sewer customers, and a $1.55 monthly increase for Tier 2 stormwater customers are also included.

City Council and City staff will review the proposed budget details at special work sessions on May 24 and May 25. These in-person work sessions will begin at 9 a.m. in City Hall’s Committee Room and will be livestreamed to the City’s YouTube channel to enable as many residents as possible to watch the departmental budget presentations.

A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, June 5, at 7 p.m. with final budget approval set for Tuesday, June 20, at 7 p.m. To review the entire proposed budget, visit the City’s Budget and Management Services Department webpage.

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