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Bonfield budget ups tax rate, cuts jobs

City Manager Tom Bonfield proposed a $353.4-million budget for 2010-11 Monday night, up 2.2 percent, or $7.7 million, over that approved for 2009-10.
His budget includes an increased property-tax rate and eliminating 31 staff positions, 15 currently filled. For the second year in a row, city employees are getting no raises, but Bonfield said he will ask the City Council to approve one-time bonuses for all employees if revenue is higher than expected by mid-year.

"On the revenue side I think we have bottomed out and begun to see some stabilization," Bonfield said before presenting his proposal to the council.

Of the tax increase, .49 cents is dedicated to increased costs for debt service on bonds that voters approved in 2005 and 2007 and .7 cents for the Durham Area Transit Authority to make up for decreased ridership and the end of federal stimulus funding.

"No aspect of the tax increase is going to support any of the [city] operations and core services," Bonfield said.

His proposed tax-rate increase is 1.19 cents per $100 valuation, to 55.19 cents or $1,103.80 on a $200,000 house.

Neighborhoods 'deliberate' on city budget

Craigie Sanders and Tom Miller have staked Durham's neighborhoods to a place in the city's budget process: Holton Career and Resource Center, Driver Street, Feb. 27 in the morning.

"There will be food. I think it's pizza," Miller said.

Sanders and Miller are past president and president respectively, of the InterNeighborhood Council. They, with city budget Director Bertha Johnson, have arranged for neighborhood representatives and city staffers to convene in a "Neighborhood Engagement Workshop" and talk about priorities for 2010-11.

"It isn't so much to decide what the city will spend money on that they haven't spent money on in the past," Miller said, "it's what they won't cut."

The "cafe-style" format, small groups around tables with a neutral emcee at each to keep the conversation on task, is intended to be a more "deliberative" exercise than the annual "Coffee With Council" sessions, Miller said.

There, "ordinary citizens kind of speak for themselves ... in a disorganized fashion," he said. In contrast, at the workshops neighborhood representatives "would come in and ... deliberate and answer questions."

City Council members would show up toward the end to hear the outcome. If it turns out well, the city might make the workshop a "usable continuing part of the budget process," Miller said.

Explaining the notion at Tuesday's InterNeighborhood Council meeting, Miller gave
Sanders most of the credit for instigating the workshop.

"You," Sanders said, "have just as much responsibility ... as I do.” 



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