Durham mayor addresses city, foreshadows $15m budget shortfall | News

Durham mayor addresses city, foreshadows $15m budget shortfall

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In his annual "State of the City" address, Bill Bell highlighted several of the same issues that were of top concern in last year's update: transportation, jobs and crime reduction.

Bell highlighted declines in property and violent crime, efforts to make local transportation easier and more accessible--including the possibility of fare-free ridership--and what the city has done in the past year to improve the city's 7-percent unemployment rate.

In his 28-minute speech, Bell also noted that as the city begins what many hope will be a year of economic recovery for Durham and the nation, this year's budget process could be as challenging as last year's. With revenue from the sales and occupancy taxes, as well as revenue from development permits and fees, on the decline, the city will face about a $15 million gap when the administration comes together this spring to examine the budget, Bell said.

"As with your household budget, when you spend more than you bring home, the city's options are quite limited," Bell told an audience at Durham City Hall. "The solution will be either a change in services, reduction in spending and services, or some type of revenue increases."

Bell also cited many statistics that celebrate city accomplishments or mark milestones.

Bell's Speech By the Numbers

8 - number of "State of the City" addresses Bell has delivered

30 - percentage by which property crime in Durham has declined since 2000

611 - number of jobs created since July 2008 through economic incentives to businesses

250,000 - number of visitors to the new Durham Performing Arts Center in its inaugural year

284 - number of jobs in Durham created or saved last year with economic stimulus funds

$16 million - cost to renovate and open in 2009 the Holton Career & Resource Center, which Bell called a "jewel in Northeast Central Durham"

1 cent - a property tax rate increase that could provide free bus transportation to Durham residents (This is  under discussion.)

250 - the number of summer youth jobs Bell hopes to create in 2010, a decrease from last summer's 385 jobs; He called on any business with a city contract to find a way to create a summer job for a teen who signs up for the city's summer jobs program.

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