Durham County approves $736 million budget, more money for public schools

·3 min read

Durham County leaders approved a $736 million budget with a one-cent tax-rate increase and more money for public schools.

The Durham County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the 2021-22 fiscal year budget Monday night.

“We made many tough decisions,” Commissioners Chair Brenda Howerton said. “And I am proud we came to consensus on important strategic investments that continue to make Durham County a thriving community.”

Durham Public Schools will receive $166.2 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1, about $11.13 million more than the school system received last year. That brings the amount of spending per-pupil to $3,974.

The budget also includes $6 million for the district’s building maintenance needs, the same amount the DPS Board of Education requested. An additional $1.15 million will fund 12 public health school nurses.

About $8.95 million will go to Durham Technical Community College, over $1 million more than commissioners approved in last year’s budget.

“First of all, I just think that the additional amount of funding we’re giving to Durham Public Schools is excellent,” Commissioner Heidi Carter said. “We’re within, I think that we are within reach of full funding of the budget that the school board made.”

Howerton expressed gratitude to county employees, essential workers, and the Durham community at large for their collaboration and coordination as they navigated through the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can’t say enough how much I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “You have been the true superheroes in this saga.”

Vice-chair Wendy Jacobs and Carter acknowledged the budget does not move any positions out of the sheriff’s office budget, as some community groups sought in recent weeks.

“We must invest upstream in the mental and physical health needs of our residents and address issues like poverty, that are at the root causes of violence,” Jacobs said. “When someone calls 911 in our community, I want to make sure that the person who shows up to help them is the appropriate person for that crisis need.”

“And I look forward to our board making informed decisions about these priorities in the years ahead,” she added.

Budget highlights

Total operating budget: $736 million. It is $61.8 million more than last year’s, and $6.2 million more than the county manager recommended.

Tax rate: An increase from 72.21 to 72.22 per $100 of assessed property value. An owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay $2,166.60 in county property tax, a $30 increase. City property owners pay an additional city tax.

Schools funding: Durham Public Schools is getting $166.2 million. Durham Technical Community College will receive $8.95 million. About $5.62 million will go to Pre-K expansion.

County employees: The roughly 2,100 workers will receive a 3% cost-of-living pay raise. The county is also re-instating merit-based salary increases.

Public safety: A total of 20 new positions for Bull City United, a violence interruption team run by the public health department. Of those positions, 18 are funded by the city and two are funded by the county.

Tax assistance: $750,000 in potential relief for a joint city-county tax relief program. The program will be available for Durham County homeowners who make under 30% of the area-median-income and have owned a home for the last 10 years.

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