FY 2009-2010 Proposed Budget document
The city property-tax rate would drop 4.6 percent and the overall budget reduced $25.1 million under the $371.4 million budget for 2009-2010 that City Manager Lee Garrity recommended today to the City Council.
Overall the proposed budget allocates $317 million for operations and debt service, and $54.4 million for capital improvements, resulting in a 6.3 percent decrease from the $396.3 million budgeted for 2008-2009.
The City Council’s Finance Committee will begin reviewing the budget next week. The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on the budget on June 15. By state law, the council must adopt a budget for 2009-2010 by June 30. The budget would take effect July 1.
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 budget builds on a series of measures the city implemented last fall as the effects of the recession began to affect city revenue:
- A total of 32 city jobs that are currently vacant would be eliminated under the proposed budget, saving $1.2 million. Forty-four employees have agreed to retire by Aug. 31 in return for a $20,000 incentive payment. Counting these jobs, more than 80 city jobs would remain vacant under a hiring freeze that has been imposed for most city positions.
- All employee pay increases would be eliminated, saving $2.8 million.
- Most of the 5 percent cuts in controllable operating expenses that city departments implemented last fall would be made permanent for 2009-2010, saving $1.9 million.
- A slowdown in equipment replacement would remain in place, saving $1.1 million. Items originally scheduled for replacement during 2008-2009 are budgeted for 2009-2010. Additional replacements for the proposed budget would be limited to those items that are unlikely to last another year, plus 2 fire trucks, 15 police patrol cars, and 5,000 roll-out garbage carts.
These measures, plus others such as limits on travel and training, allow the city to balance its general fund budget despite a projected $2 million drop in revenue because of the recession. The general fund is the city’s primary fund and accounts from most tax-supported services.
The city may yet face a shortfall if the North Carolina legislature chooses to withhold local revenues to balance the state budget. As much $8.1 million is at risk, Garrity told council members in his cover letter with the budget. However, no action by the state is anticipated before mid-June.
The proposed budget would keep all city services at their current levels and does not include an increase in fees, with the exception of water and sewer rates. Water and sewer rates would increase by 5 and 9 percent, respectively, on Oct. 1 to help pay for capital improvements to the water and sewer system. With the rate increase, the bimonthly water and sewer bill for the average household in Winston-Salem would be $66.01, an increase of 14 cents a day.
As of July 1, a new rate structure that encourages water conservation would take effect. The new rate structure will result in a 29 percent decrease in the amount that all customers pay for the first 600 cubic feet (4,488 gallons) of water.
Despite the squeeze on the budget, Garrity is recommending no change in city funding to non-profit community agencies “in recognition of the budgetary stress these agencies are experiencing and the public benefits they are providing.” A total of $557,500 provides grants for the Arts Council Inc., SciWorks, the National Black Theatre Festival, River Run International Film Festival, Old Salem, and the Piedmont Triad Film Commission. No grants would be made to new agencies. Grants supported by federal Community Development Block Grants have been reduced 15 percent or more, due to a drop in program income.
The proposed budget for capital improvements includes $37 million for water and sewer, stormwater management, and solid waste disposal projects, including $4.4 million to
replace aging water and sewer lines in the Ardmore neighborhood, $3.4 million for construction of a cell at the Hanes Mill Road landfill, and $4 million for renovations to the sewer-collection and water-distribution systems. Other capital spending includes $5.9 million for replacing buses operated by the Winston-Salem Transit Authority and $2.2 million for resurfacing city streets.
The proposed capital spending plan does not include money from the stimulus bill that Congress passed earlier this year. To date, the city has been authorized to receive stimulus funds for energy conservation, housing and transit assistance. Should additional stimulus funds come to the city, other projects could be added in accordance with a priority list the city has compiled.
How to participate in the budget process:
- Copies of the proposed budget are available for review at public libraries and City Hall, 101 N. Main St. Suite 30. Copies of the budget are also available online.
- The City Council’s Finance Committee will hold workshops on the budget at 4 p.m. June 2 and 2 p.m. June 9 in the Council Committee Room (Room 239) on the second floor of City Hall. These workshops are open to the public but are for the purpose of allowing council members to study the proposed budget.
- The Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7:30 p.m. June 4 in the Council Chamber (Room 230) on the second floor of City Hall.
- The Public Safety Committee will review the budgets for the Police, Fire and Emergency Management departments on June 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Committee Room.
- The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7:30 p.m. June 15 in the Council Chamber before voting on the budget.
FY 2009-2010 Proposed Budget document