Durham County manager presents budget; increases funds for public schools
Posted May 24, 2010 10:16 p.m. EDT
Updated May 25, 2010 4:33 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — Durham County Manager Michael Ruffin presented his recommended budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year Monday evening during the regular meeting of the county commissioners.
At the beginning of this year’s budget process, the county faced a $10.8 million deficit. Ruffin’s $339 million budget proposes a 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 237 positions considered for elimination.
Teachers, parents and students attended the commissioners’ meeting Monday to voice concerns over any cuts to education.
"Personally, as a student I think that it is ridiculous that they want to cut my education down,” Hillside High School junior Elisa Benitze said.
Ruffin said the county is doing what it can to fund education and save as many teaching positions as feasible. Durham public schools faced a $13 million loss in teacher jobs.
"We can not take the state's place and fund an increase of this magnitude,” Ruffin explained.
But Ruffin's budget proposal does provide a funding increase of 3.16 percent for schools, saving 111 teacher jobs.
"That is certainly a good point from which we can now work,” board member Heidi Carter said.
To save the rest of the jobs, Commissioner Becky Heron said teachers, parents and students should take their fight to state legislators.
"You (legislators) created the shortfall. You have ways to raise money. We don't except through the property tax,” Heron said.
The county manager's proposed budget would also lay off 15 workers and eliminate 46 vacant positions, suspend merit raises for the year and increase fees for the sheriff’s office, the fire marshal, erosion control, public health, the Triangle wastewater treatment plant and solid waste management.
County libraries will also close from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays to reduce costs. The Museum of Life and Science will receive a 3 percent reduction in funding while non-profit agencies will receive an overall 4.07 percent cut. Durham Technical Community College will also receive a 3 percent funding reduction.
A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for June 14. County commissioners have until June 28 to approve the budget.