Durham commissioners talk budget

DURHAM During the regular session meeting, commissioners heard the proposed spending plan that focused on cost-saving measures to maintain the quality of county services needed by Durham's most vulnerable citizens.

At the beginning of this year's budget process, Durham County Government faced a $10.8 million deficit.

Durham County Manager Michael Ruffin presented his recommended budget to the BOCC. This year's proposal called for what Ruffin described as "very difficult decisions about county funding and services."

Ruffin's recommended budget proposes a 4.29 cents 6 percent increase to the property tax rate.

Of the increase, 2.5 cents will cover the county's debt. The remaining 1.79 cents will enable Durham Public Schools to save nearly half of its positions considered for elimination. As an example of the property tax proposal, a resident owning a $100,000 home will see an increase of $42.90 in their tax bill for the coming year.

Budget Highlights

Durham County Government:

  • Departmental budgets are reduced by 1.63 percent.

  • 61 county positions are eliminated; of those 46 are currently vacant and 15 currently filled.

  • No salary increases or longevity benefits are included for any employees.

  • Open Space Matching Grants are suspended for the period.

  • County libraries will close from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays.

  • Fee increases are recommended for Sheriff's Office, Erosion Control, Fire Marshal, Public Health, Triangle Wastewater Treatment Plant, and Solid Waste Management

  • Fire district tax rates will not increase; except for the New Hope Tax District whose rate is established by Orange County Government.

  • Durham Technical Community College will receive a 3 percent reduction ($125,698) in funding.
  • Durham Public Schools will receive a current expense funding increase of 3.16 percent or an additional $3,154,526 or an $80 increase per pupil spending.
  • In addition, new computers for DPS are included: 878 desktops and 55 laptops
  • Museum of Life and Science will receive a 3 percent reduction ($40,508) in funding
  • Non-Profit Agencies will receive an overall 4.07 percent reduction ($35,426)
Fiscal Year 2010-2011 Priorities and Goals The county's mission is to enhance the quality of life for its citizens by providing education, safety and security, health and human services, economic development, cultural and recreational resources. To prepare the proposed budget, the county manager used approved guidelines from the BOCC which set the tone for the fiscal year 2010-2011 priorities and goals.

Unlike last year, the recommended budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 includes an increase to property taxes and reduction of county positions and programs. However, the county will continue to provide quality services to meet the needs of Durham's residents without materially reducing any services. In addition, many DPS positions can be saved.

Budget reviews may call for some changes to the manager's proposed budget, keeping in mind the following priorities and goals:

  • The recommended county-wide property tax rate shall not exceed $73.81 cents.
  • The recommended appropriation from the County's undesignated fund balance shall not exceed an amount that would create an undesignated fund balance percentage of less than 15 percent as reported in the County's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2009.
  • No funding recommendations may be forwarded that would reduce maintenance of effort requirements as imposed by the State of North Carolina.
  • Funding recommendations for outside organizations shall not be at a level greater than the average percentage of reduction recommended for county departments.
  • Consolidation and reorganization of county services shall be considered where costs can be reduced and/or efficiencies can be realized due to duplications of effort.
  • No new services or increases to existing service level shall be considered. Existing county services and services levels should be examined for continued need, effectiveness, costs, etc.
  • Any strategies that would result in a reduction in force, layoffs or furloughs shall follow established policies and procedures.
Although the current economic challenges have forced deeper cuts to government operation, no county services are materially jeopardized. Each resident's best interest is kept in mind in order to meet the needs of the entire community. "During these tough economic times, we know that requests for public assistance will be on the upswing," stated Ruffin. "Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to provide quality services to meet the needs of our citizens."

Future Budget Deliberations

In the next few weeks, the Board of County Commissioners will hold several budget work sessions. Residents are invited to share their views on the budget at a public hearing on Monday, June 14 at 7 p.m. Residents wishing to comment on the budget recommendation should contact the Clerk to the Board at 919-560-0025.

The Board is slated to adopt the final budget on Monday, June 28 at 7 p.m. Five budget hearings are presently scheduled. Residents are advised to visit the county's website for dates and times of the budget hearings.

The County Manager's recommended budget document, manager's message and budget presentation are available on the county's website. Copies of the recommended spending plan are also available in the County Manager's Office, the Office of the Clerk to the Board and at the reference sections of all Durham County libraries.

For more information about County Manager Michael Ruffin's proposed budget for fiscal year 2010-2011, contact Durham County Government at 560-0000.

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