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Durham County budget proposal includes property tax increase, funds for education

Bull statue Durham
Shawn Blanchard via Flickr

Durham County property owners could see a tax increase, if commissioners adopt the budget county manager Kimberly Sowell presented to them Monday night.

To pay for increased spending, property taxes would rise three cents — to 75.22 cents — for every $100 of valuation. There was no property tax increase in last year's budget.

"The development of this budget is predicated on a third straight fiscal year of significant growth in major revenue sources," Sowell told the board. "Durham County continues to grow in terms of business location, job expansion, as well as the number of people who choose this community as a desirable place to live."

Growth is contributing to higher sales and property tax collections, but Sowell said the county is spending more for pre-Kindergarten-12 education and higher enrollment at Durham Technical Community College.

Durham Public Schools asked for an additional $10.8 million to add teachers in grades K-3 and pay for escalating costs of retirement benefits and health insurances. Sowell's budget recommendation includes the full request.

Durham Tech will receive an additional $1.9 million for salary increases and other needs.

Sowell also wants a 7% raise for county staff, based on recommendations from a salary study.

"Over the last two years, there have been significant challenges to filling vacant positions to keep employees from leaving high stress jobs as well as overcoming the loss of organizational knowledge that occurs when we have long tenured employees that retire," Sowell said.

County commissioners will hold a series of workshops and hearings on the budget proposal before taking a final vote June 12.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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