City services will be maintained at their current level, Trans-Aid and some bus routes will begin Sunday hours and property owners whose property declined in value by 8 percent or more will pay less in city property taxes under the $378.9 million budget the City Council approved Monday.
The budget sets the property tax rate at 53 cents per $100 of assessed value. This is 3.9 cents higher than the current rate of 49.1 cents; however, more than 60 percent of city property owners will see their tax bill decline because of the drop in house values.
The 2013-14 budget is 3.4 percent lower than this year’s $392 million budget. It allocates $307.4 million for operations and debt service and $71.5 million for capital improvements. The budget will take effect July 1.
The tax rate is 1.25 cents less than the “revenue neutral rate” that would bring in the same amount of overall revenue from property taxes as last year, before the latest property revaluation took effect. That revaluation reduced the total value of real property in the city by 10.5 percent.
The impact of the tax rate on individual property owners depends on how revaluation affected their property value. An owner of a $100,000 house whose value did not change will pay $39 more in property taxes. If that house dropped 5 percent in value to $95,000, the tax bill will increase $13. If the house dropped 8 percent in value to $92,000, the tax bill will drop $3.
Because more than 60 percent of city property owners had their value drop by 8 percent or more, the majority of property owners will see their tax bill decrease under the proposed rate.
The budget reduces overall city spending by cutting jobs and investing in equipment and technology that will make the city operations more efficient. Specific investments include purchasing four side-loading garbage trucks and four automated leaf-collection trucks, purchasing nine hybrid buses that will reduce maintenance and fuel costs, and installing automatic locators on city vehicles that will allow the city to improve accountability, reduce fuel costs and enable development of more efficient routes.
The budget incorporates 14 recommendations by the Citizens’ Organizational Efficiency Review Committee, which earlier this year concluded a comprehensive review of city operations, organization and staffing. Among these incorporated recommendations are increased fees for cemetery plots and grave openings, increased fines for weeded-lot violations, and increased inspection fees to better reflect the cost of services.
The budget allocates one-fifth of a cent of the property tax rate to operate Trans-Aid and select bus routes on Sundays from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Winston-Salem Transit Authority estimates that it will take about four months to start this service.
Grants to community agencies will be trimmed by 2 percent each; the savings will fund a $15,000 grant to the Creative Corridors Coalition.
The city payroll will be reduced by 52 positions, including 28 positions related to the sale of LJVM Coliseum and Bowman Gray Stadium. City employees will be eligible for merit pay increases of 1.5 to 3 percent, based on upon their performance. The City Council voted to not accept merit raises for itself.
The budget for capital improvements includes $32.5 million for water and sewer and stormwater management projects, $3.9 million for major maintenance of city fire stations and recreation facilities, street resurfacing, bridge repairs, and improvements at Winston Lake Golf Course, $4.6 million for the purchase of hybrid buses, and $3.1 million for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive enhancement project.