The Durham City Council approved its budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which includes $6 million for reparations for slavery. This money will be used to fund green and equitable infrastructure in historically Black neighborhoods.
The total city budget of $529.7 million for the fiscal year was approved on Monday. The budget, which will be available on the City of Durham webpage on July 1, includes funding for “community safety, affordable housing” and “COVID-19 recovery,” in addition to the infrastructure projects, according to a Monday press release from the city’s public affairs office.
In 2018, Durham City Council passed a resolution that called for reparations for the descendants of enslaved people. In July 2020, the Durham racial equity task force, which was formed in 2018, submitted a 60-page report to the city council that encouraged Durham leaders to consider the creation of a local reparations program as part of the city’s anti-racism work.
In October 2020, the council approved a resolution that called on federal lawmakers to enact reparations programs dedicated to eliminating the racial wealth gap.
“Federal reparations are the best way to account and compensate Black Americans for the many decades of government policy that have advantaged white people and disadvantaged Black people,” Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson said in an interview with INDY Week in 2020.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel is one of 11 mayors that has committed to reparations programs, as part of a coalition entitled Mayors Organized for Reparations and Equity. The coalition also includes the mayors of Asheville, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California.
Earlier this month, the Asheville City Council approved $2.1 million toward reparations. The money will be invested in programs designed to alleviate disparities.
Schewel said in an interview with the North Carolina Public Radio that he wants to see the local efforts in Durham and other cities reflected in national politics.
"I think, locally, what we can do is we can do things that are reparative,” he said. “And we do that every day in our work in the city. But that's different from really having a program of reparations. And I think that's an important distinction."
The press release also noted that the fiscal year’s property tax, 55.17 cents for every $100 of assessed value, is an increase of two cents from the previous year’s tax. Of those two cents, 1.38 cents will go towards repaying the debt created by the $95 million Affordable Housing Bond passed in 2019 and .50 cents will go toward the green infrastructure projects. The remaining 0.12 cents will go to the city’s General Fund.
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Anna Zolotor is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.