At a time of great uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, public officials at both the city and county levels in Durham continue to work to complete their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year 2020-2021. Since early in the year, PA (led by its action teams and board) has been advocating for the inclusion of several specific budget requests that support our vision of a just, equitable, and inclusive community where all people thrive. These requests include additional funding for rental assistance and eviction diversion, added support for race equity, a proposal for county-wide property tax assistance for low-income homeowners, expanded investments in environmental sustainability, and a living wage for all Durham Public Schools (DPS) employees.
We’re now entering the final phase of budget preparation at both the city and county level. Over the next month, both the city and county budgets will be finalized. To ensure that PA’s key priorities for the Durham community are included in the final budgets, we ask you all as PA members to reach out to your elected leaders with the following requests:
For all city council members:
- Provide $890,000 to fund the city’s share of a model, county-wide program of property tax assistance to homeowners with incomes below 30% of the area median income. This is a fair housing and race equity policy that will help keep low-income homeowners — many of them Black — in their homes, prevent gentrification, and build wealth in low-income communities. The city should keep the $8 million it is receiving from the sale of the old police headquarters at 505 W. Chapel Hill St. in the Affordable Housing Fund, as promised, to cover this cost while leaving funds needed for McDougald Terrace. With the city likely allocating $950,000 for rental assistance in response to COVID-19, we ask that it invests similarly in supporting low-income homeowners.
- Invest more in services and programs supporting reentry for justice-involved residents, including restoring driver’s licenses; expunging criminal records; and continuing and increasing funding for the DEAR program, Welcome Home, and Durham’s Innovation Team.
- Create a Community Benefits Fund to support projects and outreach efforts in alignment with the "Resolution Supporting to Renewable Energy and Carbon Neutrality," including energy efficiency retrofits for low-income homeowners and small businesses, rooftop solar for recently-constructed public housing projects, rebates for electric vehicle purchases for low-income residents, and farm-to-table community kitchen projects.
To communicate with all city council members, use this email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For all county commissioners:
- Provide staff and coordinate with the City of Durham, North Carolina Legal Aid, and nonprofits to help people who need eviction diversion and rental assistance funds.
- Provide $1.2 million to fund the county’s share of a model, county-wide program of property tax assistance to homeowners with incomes below 30% of the area median income. This will keep low-income homeowners in their homes, prevent gentrification, and build wealth in low-income communities.
- Provide funding to increase salaries for non-licensed staff to $15 per hour and increase funding to ensure DPS provides adequate and equitable teacher salary supplements. Also, fully fund English As a Second Language and Exceptional Children academic services.
- Coordinate with the city to advance the Community Wellness Taskforce, prioritizing the leadership of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and other people of color to respond to the immediate needs in their own communities.
- Reduce dependency on incarceration by allocating funds to mental health courts for some felony offenses, supporting the Local Reentry Council, and ensuring funds for transitional housing and services for female-identifying folks who are justice-involved.
- Fund the development of a joint City-County Climate Action Plan in accordance with the “Resolution Supporting a Transition to Renewable Energy, the Creation of Green Jobs, and a Federal Price on Carbon” passed by the City Council and County Commission.
To communicate with all county commissioners, use this email: email@example.com.