Durham’s Proposed Budget Maintains Services With No Property Tax Increase

June 1st e-Town Hall Set for Public Participation

​DURHAM, N.C. – May 20, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Reflecting on how years of strategic planning and fiscally responsible actions created a tipping point for this year’s budget, City Manager Thomas Bonfield presented the FY 2015-2016 preliminary budget earlier this evening – which includes no property tax increase – keeping the current tax rate at 59.12 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

“This year’s budget represents a tipping point, putting us at a place where we see the vision of just a few years ago taking on all of the characteristics of reality. We can see it. We can feel it. We can put it to use for the benefit of our community,” Bonfield said. “It’s a vision that’s not yet complete, but one that represents an achievement that is the result of deliberate planning for Durham’s future…a future that we’re experiencing now.”

Bonfield recommends a total preliminary budget for FY 2015-16 of $386.5 million, a less than 1 percent decrease from last year’s budget, and includes a $170.2 million budget for services covered by the general fund, a nearly 3 percent decrease from last year. A tax rate of 59.12 per $100 of assessed property value generates a tax bill of $986.12 on a house valued at $166,753, which is the median house value for the City of Durham according to the Durham County Office of Tax Administration.

The street resurfacing fund is recommended to receive a boost, increasing the fund to $2 million along with $500,000 allocated for repairing sidewalks. “Improving streets continues to be a top priority for residents as well as fixing more sidewalks, so we took this into serious account when allocating funds,” Bonfield said.

Other fee changes include water and sewer rate increases that were previously presented to Council at its May 7th work session, and approved during tonight’s meeting. There are no proposed stormwater rate increases.

The FY 2016-2021 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget contains $12.9 million in general fund capital projects, including $1.26 million for sidewalk design and repair, $1.7 million for fire upgrade/Fire Station #18 land acquisition, $2.7 million for parks repairs & upgrades, $1.12 million for cemeteries upgrades, and $395,000for city-wide fiber optic cable installation. The remaining $75 million of CIP funding is dedicated to water and sewer and stormwater enterprise projects. CIP funding is provided through impact fees, water and sewer revenues, revenue bonds, stormwater fees, and pay-go funds.

Other highlights include:
• $600,000 for deferred maintenance (CIP)
• $5.6 million for fleet vehicles (CIP)
• $2.1 million for public arts & culture, including the new Durham Sports Commission, Carolina Theatre, Durham Arts Council, St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation, American Dance Festival, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Durham Blues Festival, Durham History Hub, and other public art initiatives

Bonfield also recommended that the City return to its differentiated pay-for-performance plan, rewarding employees according to their performance. While the average increase will be 3.5 percent for general pay plan employees, police and fire pay plan employees will receive between 3 percent and 5 percent increases. For the first time in three years, employee health care premiums will rise by 3 percent, and employee dental premiums will also increase by 5 percent.

The budget also estimates fund balance reserves at approximately 21 percent, with $1.7 million of these funds to be used for one-time expenditures. The City continues to maintain excellent fiscal status with an AAA bond-rating from all three ratings agency – achieved by only a few of nation’s more than 22,500 cities.

To encourage resident feedback, the third annual e-Town Hall will be held on Monday, June 1 at 7 p.m. during the regularly scheduled City Council Meeting. Residents are asked to send their thoughts and questions now that they’ve heard the proposed budget.

Comments and questions can be sent in a number of ways – by email, on Facebook, through Twitter (use #DurhamETH), by uploading a video to YouTube and sending the link by email, or by contacting Durham One Call (919) 560-1200.

During the live e-Town Hall event, City Council will respond to as many comments and questions as possible, which will be televised live on Durham Television Network (Time Warner Cable channel 8 or 97-5 and AT&T U-verse channel 99) as well as live-streamed from the City’s website.

A public hearing is also scheduled for the preliminary budget for Monday, June 1 with final budget approval set for Monday, June 15 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.

To review the proposed budget, visit the FY 2015-2016 preliminary budget webpage or copies may also be reviewed in the City Clerk’s Office and the City’s Budget and Management Services Department at City Hall.

About the Budget & Management Services Department
The Budget and Management Services Department is responsible for the development and oversight of the City’s annual budget and Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The department is also responsible for organizational development, performance management, strategic planning as well as the coordination of cross-organization training and leadership development. Guided by the City’s Strategic Plan, which the department established and maintains, the department helps to ensure that the City of Durham is an innovative and high-performing organization by working with City departments to build and implement performance measurement monitoring and evaluation.

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