Durham County leaders facing tough decisions

DURHAM COUNTY The Durham Board of County Commissioners says they want community input before they adopt a new budget by the end of the month, which is why they held a public meeting Monday night.

County Chairman Michael Page warns if the current budget plan is approved, just about everyone will feel the impact.

"We're just going to have to learn how to do more with less," he said.

The approval could mean libraries will have to reduce its hours of operation.

"I think it's unfortunate with the cutbacks there's probably going to be a lack of places that kids can go and use the computer and read a good book," Durham resident Jacqueline Vaughn said.

County employees would also not get a raise and some positions could be cut.

The proposed budget plan could also cost homeowners a $4.29 tax rate --a hike of 6 percent on their annual tax bill. For a $100,000 home that's about $43 additional dollars and nearly $86 for a $200,000 home.

"Taxes on top of taxes can put a pinch on homeowners," Durham resident Kristin Bennett said.

But county leaders say the tax hike will help pay for new emergency vehicles and possibly save more than 100 teaching jobs in the Durham Public School System.

"Those teachers deserve to keep their jobs, so maybe that's worth spending," Bennett said.

In all, the public gets to weigh in on a $461 million spending plan for the next fiscal year, but some county leaders are already looking beyond that.

"We've really got to sit down and think of some creative ways to address some of the problems that we have because it's not getting any better," Page said. "We've got to put our minds together to figure out what we really have in terms of preparing for next year."

The board is expected to finalize next fiscal year's budget by the end of this month.

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