The Durham City Council on Monday night approved a $429.4 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year that invests in affordable housing, public safety, and infrastructure.
The budget includes a property tax rate increase of 1.79 cents in order to dedicate a second penny of the tax rate to affordable housing and hire thirty new firefighters, among other investments. The property tax rate will increase to 57.86 cents per $100 of property value. The average homeowner will pay about $32 in property taxes than last year as a result of the increase.
A penny of the tax rate generates about $2.8 million in annual revenue. The city has a five-year goal of preserving or creating 1,150 affordable units.
Residents are also looking at an average water and sewer fee increases of about 2.6 percent, but daily pass fees to the city’s recreation facilities are being eliminated for those under eighteen. About $6.6 million will go toward street improvements. The budget also bolsters a diversity recruitment initiative and racial equity training for staff.
The $97 million public safety budget includes $1.7 million to continue the police department's take-home car program, aimed at encouraging officers to live in city limits; buy new computers and dash cams; staff the new Fire Station 17 being built on Leesville Road; and create an audio/visual team to handle police camera footage.
City employees will get an average raise of 4 percent, with public safety employees getting a 5 percent increase under a new pay plan approved earlier this year. In a year, all city employees will earn at least $15 per hour.
"This budget moves the city forward in so many new ways," said council member Steve Schewel.
Council member Charlie Reece said the budget doubles down on the city's commitment to providing affordable housing. While "we're going to need to make additional investments" to address the city's housing needs, Reece said, the second penny is moving the city in the right direction.
"I'm really proud of the values that are highlighted in the budget," added council member Don Moffitt.
After the vote, Mayor Bill Bell paused to mark the final budget approval of his sixteen-year tenure
, which will come to an end in December, and note the unanimous support for the spending plan.
"As far as I'm concerned, the city is in good hands financially and with the administration," he said.