Published: Jul 03, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Jun 30, 2011 06:47 PM
The Durham County commissioners will hold the line on property taxes but put two sales-tax increases to voters this fall.
The commissioners unanimously approved a nearly $474.6 million budget for the fiscal year that started Friday, up 3 percent over last fiscal year. The general fund, which covers day-to-day operations, is $358.6 million, up 4.4 percent.
The budget reinstates annual raises for county employees, whose pay has not increased for two years.
Commissioners Ellen Reckhow and Brenda Howerton commended the budget process that allowed the county to fully fund the Durham Public Schools $110.1 million request, preventing the loss of teaching positions, without increasing taxes.
Durham County property owners will continue to pay a property tax rate of 74.59 cents per $100 valuation, or $1,185.85 on a home valued at $150,000.
With a recently approved half-cent increase in the city property tax rate, the owner of a $150,000 home in the city would pay a total tax bill of $1,955.10.Positions eliminated
There will be an elimination of 20.8 positions from Durham County government. Of these positions, six are vacant positions in the General Fund and 14.8 are grant related.
Four positions for the General Services Department have been added to the budget to support needed maintenance of the new Human Services Complex. One new position has been added to the attorney's office for Department of Social Services support, the Library has 3.9 new positions. The Criminal Justice Partnership Center will add a new gang reduction strategy manager, and the Sewer Utility Fund will add a general utility worker.
Commissioner Joe Bowser said he didn't think it was appropriate for the county to fund the new city-county position during these tight times.
Funding remained flat for Durham Technical Community College and the Museum of Life and Science. Nonprofit agency funding was reduced by about 4 percent. Nearly $836,000 funded 42 agencies out of the total 54 that applied.Tax referendums
The board also unanimously approved asking voters in the Nov. 8 election whether they support a quarter-cent sales-tax increase to help support public schools, pre-kindergarten programs, and scholarships at Durham Technical Community College.
If voters approve the increase, collection could begin in April. County Manager Mike Ruffin estimates the quarter-cent tax would produce $2.7 million in the last three months of the 2011-12 fiscal year, and $9.2 million in a full year of collection. Revenue would be split four ways, with the majority going to help Durham Public Schools.
Bowser said the quarter-cent sales tax would likely prevent future property tax increases as it helps supplement the schools systems dwindling state funding.
The board also unanimously approved giving voters the option to decide whether they support a half-cent sales tax increase to improve public transportation.
Both increases apply to goods, excluding food, medication and gas. Commissioners pointed out that the public would still be paying less than it did before due to the elimination of a state one-cent sales tax that ends Friday.
"We do have a window of opportunity here to raise critical resources for education and in this case transportation at a time that the state is backing off," Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said.Staff writer Jim Wise contributed to this report.