City manager pitches half-cent hike of tax rate, reinstates employee raises | News

City manager pitches half-cent hike of tax rate, reinstates employee raises

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Just as for residents in many other cities and towns across the state, property taxes for Durham city dwellers could go up about a half-cent per $100 of property value, according to the budget pitch City Manager Tom Bonfield made Monday night.

For a house valued at $200,000, that would add a little over $11 to the annual tax bill for that property. City residents may also face an increase in county property taxes next year. The county manager presents his budget next Monday at a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.

Bonfield equated the proposed budget to a "bland diet."

"No appetizer, no spices, no fancy sauces, no decadent dessert," he said. "But full of substance and nutrition. It gets the job done."

Faced with a $5 million budget deficit and declining sales- and property-tax revenue, Bonfield suggested trimming 10 jobs to balance the city budget for 2011-12. Seven of the 10 positions are occupied, Bonfield said, and several of those employees will get other employment with the city, including 21 full-time positions the city will gain by rearranging some resources. For instance, the city will cut one supervisory position in its general services department, and replace it with two positions for lower-paid laborers. (Read the city's summary)

If the Durham City Council accepts Bonfield's proposal, city employees would also be eligible for two-percent increases in pay and a one-percent increase in their 401k matching program. The 401k contributions had previously been cut and raises for city employees have been frozen for the past two years, Bonfield said. Police and firefighters have faced frozen salaries for the past year, and that freeze would also be lifted under Bonfield's plan.

The proposed plan also includes an average rate increase of about 5 percent for water and sewer services, and about 9 percent for stormwater rates, costing homeowners up to an additional $10 per year. (Read the full budget at the city's website)

The City Council will fine-tune the budget next week in work sessions at City Hall, and will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 6, before finally approving the budget and any tax increases on Monday, June 20. All meetings will be held at City Hall, 101 City Hall Plaza in downtown Durham.

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