NC legislation threatens Durham’s budget

The legislature is in session, and the biggest potential issue for Durham so far is SB369, which was introduced yesterday under the delightfully euphemistic “Sales Tax Fairness Act” title.

Currently, a portion of the state sales tax ($.02 per dollar) is earmarked for “local” spending. Of that, 75% ($.015 per dollar) is allocated directly to the county where the tax was collected, while 25% ($.005) is distributed across the state to counties based on their population.

SB369 aims to change this by treating all $.02 per dollar the same, and allocating it purely per capita with no funds earmarked for the location in which they were raised. This would effectively redistribute money from the cities (who raise much more sales tax revenue per capita) to rural counties. According to WRAL, this will result in a 9% hit to Durham County’s annual revenue.

From what I’ve read so far, this bill has a tough road to hoe due to some potential opposition from the house. Even though the primary goal is to take money away from big cities, it also nails rural tourist destinations like Dare County, so expect some interesting allies on this one.

This potential change follows a hit already poised to take effect in July: last year’s law which removed the ability of cities to collect “privilege license” taxes. According to the Herald, the city is already poised to lose $5.7M due to that legislation.

How will cities make up for the lost revenue? There aren’t many tools at their disposal, so you can probably expect property tax increases to help compensate for these gaps in the future.

The Durham Co-Op Market is OPEN

Although construction was delayed due to all the winter weather, opening day has finally arrived for the Durham Co-Op Market. IMG_20150318_083717

Here are a couple of panoramas (click to embiggen).

Exterior:

PANO_20150318_123406

Interior:

PANO_20150318_122657

I didn’t need much, but I definitely needed this: IMG_20150318_084827 The interior of the store is nice, with a lot of light coming in from those windows. It’s not a big store – I feel like it’s a bit smaller than the 9th St Whole Foods original size – but they’ve got most of what you’d expect (including a prepared food counter, coffee shop, and a deli). Prices seem to be about in line with Whole Foods.

It’s also a great place to stalk local radio personality Frank Stasio, who was making the rounds when I stopped by.

I’ve posted about the DCM a few times, and it’s really exciting to see the project come to fruition. The building is located at 1111 West Chapel Hill St. (at the intersection of Kent and WCH, near the cemetery).

The Durham Living Wage project aims to improve pay for low income earners

The People’s Alliance Fund (which is apparently related to but independent from the Durham People’s Alliance PAC) has founded the Durham Living Wage initiative to increase the pay of traditionally low income workers.

According to the Herald, they’ve got 28 businesses on board. I can’t find the full list yet, but they dropped some names you’re probably familiar with: Monuts, Fullsteam, Cocoa Cinnamon, etc. The criterion for being a member is:

Our living wage rate is tied to the livable wage rate of Durham County and the City of Durham, which is updated annually. Our 2015 wage rate is $12.33 / hour for individuals without employer-provided health insurance or $10.83 / hour for employees with employer-provided health insurance, or employees reimbursed for at least 50% of their cost of health insurance.

The fund is currently raising money to support the project.

I imagine it’s a difficult line to walk: trying to keep overhead low enough to survive in a competitive industry, while also trying to maximise the benefit you pass on to your employees. I’m reminded of an interview with Monuts co-founder Lindsay Moriarty in the Duke Chronicle in which she discusses (among other things) trying to grow a small business while keeping the well-being of employees in mind from the beginning.

As Google Fiber looms, TWC scrambles to remain relevant

TWC is putting out press releases talking about their sweet new service:

“With ‘TWC Maxx,’ we’re essentially reinventing the TWC experience,” said Darrel Hegar, regional vice president of operations, Time Warner Cable. “We will boost Internet speeds for customers up to six times faster, add to our robust TWC WiFi©, dramatically improve the TV product and set a high bar in our industry for differentiated, exceptional customer service.”
Ooooh I’m so excited! Give me the deets!

TWC noted that customers now receiving standard Internet service (15 Mbps) will receive up to 50 Mbps.

“Extreme” service customers (30 Mbps) will receive up to 200 Mbps.

“Ultimate” customers (100 Mbps) will receive up to 300 Mbps.

Wait, now I’m not excited at all. The service you call “ultimate” is 300 Mbps? That’s a mere 30% of the bandwidth provided by Google Fiber.

TWC had actually announced its intention to upgrade service already, but the news media is giving it some play now. Note that TWC’s upgrade is planned for “later this year,” so it’s not like you can go out there and buy it right now. I suspect they’ll scramble and beat Google Fiber to market, offering some pretty attractive lock-in contract prices to early adopters to slow the bleeding as much as possible.

While TWC clearly can’t compete on service, they may still be relevant for budget conscious consumers.

Oh hey, in other ISP news: do you guys remember RST Fiber, which made grand promises for providing gigabit to residential customers in the summer of 2014? How’s that working out, then?

Forced to relocate due to the DPD HQ move, Bull City Ciderworks turns to Kickstarter for funding

I’ve mentioned the new DPD HQ site near Golden Belt a few times now, and as that plan moves forward the existing tenants will need to move on. One such tenant, Bull City Ciderworks, has launched a kickstarter project to fund its own move away from the site.

The Ciderworks has developed a solid following, and prior to the DPD HQ site decision they appeared well positioned to anchor a general revitalization of the area. It’s not clear where they intend to relocate, only noting on the Kickstarter project page that they’ve already targeted several locations.

Again, I’ve got to give a wag of the finger to the city for the selection of this site for the DPD HQ. There was a lot of potential for creative reuse here, and businesses like the Ciderworks could have just been the tip of the iceberg.

In more DPD HQ news, councilman Don Moffitt is encouraging consideration of the project’s impact on the streetscape as the city prepares to hire an architectural firm. Faceless government facilities tend to really stifle surrounding development, and given that the DPD HQ is coming, it’s at least somewhat reassuring that the council is thinking of ways to integrate it into the site in a minimally disruptive way.

[Insert something about snow]

I’ve lived near the triangle my entire life, and the worst snow I’ve ever seen was back in 2000 when I lived in Raleigh. 20 inches in one day according to that thing (although I don’t remember it being that much).

Anyway, now we’re staring down 8 inches overnight. That’s a lot of snow in such a small period of time, maybe even more per hour than the snow in 2000. So it’s pretty much safe to say that schools (which close when the roads are wet) will be closed, like, forever.

For a long time I laughed at how unprepared the state was to deal with snow and how quickly everything shut down. The last couple of weeks, though, have stopped being funny. Let’s hope that spring decides to show up soon.

I think I’m going to order some Heavenly Buffaloes tonight, because god knows when the snow will melt and I’ll get another chance.