DURHAM — The City Council approved a $389.9 million budget that raises the tax rate about 4 percent for debt, police and firefighters, parks and garbage.
City Manager Tom Bonfield originally proposed a $377 million budget that raised the tax rate by 1.29 cents per $100 valuation to cover debt service on voter-approved bonds and salaries for police officers and firefighters previously paid with federal stimulus grants.
Council members, who had already added 0.5 cent for park maintenance and repair, voted 4-3 Monday night to add another 0.579-cent to replace revenue from a controversial garbage-collection fee imposed in 2013.
“It’s regressive,” said Councilman Steve Schewel. “The owner of a $175,000 home pays same as the owner of a $5,000 home.”
“I don’t buy this argument about $1.80 being regressive,” said Mayor Bill Bell. “Everybody who pays property taxes doesn’t get the service” because the city does not collect at businesses and apartment complexes.
Council members Diane Catotti, Eddie Davis, Don Moffitt and Steve Schewel voted to eliminate the fee and raise the tax rate. Councilman Eugene Brown, Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden and Mayor Bill Bell voted to retain the fee.
The vote for eliminating the solid-waste fee also increased the fee for yard-waste pickup from $60 to $72 per year, and commercial tipping fees at the Club Boulevard Transfer Station from $42.50 to $44.50 per ton.
With the increases, the city’s rate rises about 4 percent from the current 56.75 cents per $100 of assessed property value to 59.12 cents, adding $47.40 to the tax bill for a $200,000 house and lot.
The overall budget passed 6-1, with Brown casting the lone No because of the garbage-fee decision.
During the garbage-fee discussion, Budget Director Bertha Johnson said that the city’s solid-waste revenue projections show an $800,000 shortfall in 2015-16.
Covering the shortfall could require another rate increase on property taxes.
If the council had stuck with the fee, they would have had to raise it more than 50 percent to cover the shortfall.