The Winston-Salem City Council has scheduled a general obligation bond referendum that would raise $139.2 million for public improvements. The public improvements that the bonds would finance are broken down into five categories. Voters will vote separately on each category.
Parks & Recreation: $30.85 million (19 projects)
Housing: $10.0 million (two programs)
Economic Development: $25.0 million (three programs)
Public Safety Facilities: $31.0 million (eight projects)
Streets & Sidewalks: $42.35 million (10 projects)
The projects proposed under these categories are items that are the responsibility of city government. They do not include schools, libraries or other projects that are the responsibility of county and state government.
The proposed projects adhere to the strategic focus areas adopted by the Mayor and the City Council. The parks and recreation bonds address the strategic focus of promoting a healthy environment and the housing bonds address the strategic focus on creating livable neighborhoods. The economic development bonds address the strategic focus on promoting economic vitality and diversity, the bonds for public safety facilities fall under the strategic focus of creating a safe and secure community, and the bonds for streets and sidewalks address the strategic focus on providing quality transportation.
Full Descriptions of Proposed Projects and Description
Final Report on Capital Needs Meetings [pdf/2mb/62p]
How were the projects selected?
The City Council held a series of meetings earlier this year to review the city’s unfunded capital needs, consider what projects would be appropriate for a bond referendum and determine what the city could afford to address and the potential impact on tax rates. City staff took their guidance and developed a proposed list of projects, which the council then refined into the list that will go before the voters.
Why pay for these projects with bonds?
General obligation bonds are the least-expensive way to finance these projects, thanks to the city’s high credit rating. Because our credit rating is high and the bonds are guaranteed by the city’s taxing authority, the city will pay less interest on the bonds than if it used some other form of financing.
What effect will this have on my taxes?
If the bonds are approved, they will be issued in stages over approximately six years. If voters were to approve all $139.2 million in projects, the city Finance Department estimates that the city property tax rate could increase up to 2.5 cents, starting in July 2015. Based on this, the owner of a house valued at $200,000 would pay $50 more in property taxes starting in August 2015. This works out to about $4.17 per month.
Why can’t we pay as we go?
The city has used pay-as-you-go financing for its capital needs since the last bond referendum in 2000. This has not been sufficient to meet our needs, resulting in the current backlog of $709.2 million in unfunded capital needs. Borrowing $139.2 million will allow the city to address the most pressing of these needs and pay the money back over time, much as people do when they borrow money to buy a house or a vehicle.
Why do we have to vote on these bonds?
When a city issues general obligation bonds, it pledges its “full faith and credit” to repay the bonds. To assure that the city will meet this commitment, voters are required to vote in a referendum that would authorize a tax levy, if needed, to repay the bonds.
Why don’t the proposed bonds include any money for schools?
Public schools in Forsyth County are financed by Forsyth County. As such, school projects are the responsibility of the Forsyth County Commissioners.
Didn’t we just vote on library bonds in 2010? Why are we having another referendum so soon?
Public libraries, like schools, are operated by Forsyth County. The 2010 referendum on library bonds was held by the Forsyth County Commissioners.