The city property-tax rate would drop 4.6 percent and the city’s General Fund would be balanced with a series of budget-cutting measures under the General Fund budget that City Manager Lee Garrity recommended today to Mayor Allen Joines and members of the City Council.
For the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which starts July 1, Garrity said he will recommend a General Fund budget of $170.3, a decrease of $2.7 million, or 1.6 percent, from the $173 million General Fund budget the council approved for the current fiscal year.
The General Fund finances city services and city administration supported by taxes.
The property tax rate would be reduced to 46.75 cents per $100 of value – down from the current rate of 49 cents – to keep the tax rate “revenue neutral” after the Forsyth County tax assessor reappraised property values this year. The rate would bring in the same amount of revenue as the city could have expected if property values had not been reappraised, after adjustments for growth in the tax base and a projected drop in the collection rate.
The proposed General Fund budget would keep all city services at their current levels and does not include an increase in fees. Highlights of the budget proposal include:
- deletion of 24 vacant positions for a savings of $976,000;
- operating department expenditure reductions for a savings of $1.4 million;
- equipment replacement limited to items that are unlikely to survive another year, plus two fire trucks, 15 police patrol vehicles, and 5,000 roll-out carts for the voluntary curbside program, for a savings of $483,000;
- elimination of all employee pay increases for a cost avoidance of $2.2 million; and
- no reduction in grants to non-profit community agencies.
The city may yet face a shortfall if the North Carolina legislature chooses to withhold local revenues to balance the state budget, Garrity said. “We are aware that
more than $8.15 million in local revenues collected by the state are at risk. We maintain that we have handled our local economic problem and that the state should handle its problem without passing it on to local governments.”
Mayor Allen Joines went to Raleigh Wednesday to urge legislators to give cities the revenues to which they are entitled. “The city has made some tough choices to balance its budget,” he said. “I hope the state will respect our efforts by honoring its commitments to Winston-Salem and all local governments.”
Garrity said he will release his recommendation for the full 2009-2010 budget on May 26. The City Council’s Finance Committee will begin holding a series of workshops May 28 to review the proposed budget.
Council Member Wanda Merschel, the committee chair, encouraged citizens to get involved. “Citizens are welcome to attend all our budget workshops and to speak at the public hearing the committee will hold on June 4,” she said. “We need to hear from citizens concerning our city budget, and we need them to let the state know that we are managing our budget difficulties and that state officials should take responsibility for theirs.”