The property-tax rate and city services would stay at their current levels under the $390.8 million budget for 2011-2012 that City Manager Lee Garrity has recommended to the City Council.
Overall the proposed budget allocates $325.1 million for operations and debt service and $65.7 million for capital improvements, and holds the property-tax rate at 47.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
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 20. By state law, the council must adopt a budget for 2011-2012 by June 30. The budget would take effect July 1.
In his budget message to the City Council, Garrity noted that the proposed budget takes into account the priorities that citizens identified during a series of public meetings in January. Surveys identified public safety services as the most important, followed by sanitation.
The proposed budget includes provisions to hire 14 more police officers, funded by the school system, to serve as school resource officers. It also recommends hiring three more fire battalion chiefs to improve oversight and responsiveness through the addition of a fourth fire district.
Citizens also urged the city to become more efficient, Garrity noted, and toward that end the proposed budget eliminates eight positions affected by the continuing downturn in construction activity, counting six construction inspectors, a planner and a fire inspector. Six positions would be eliminated from the Sanitation Division as it adds more automated collection trucks enabled by the switch last year to curbside garbage collection.
Overall, the city would have 2,467 positions, three more than last year, but down from 2,494 in 2009-2010, even though the city has added 47 police officers over the past four years.
The total proposed budget for 2011-2012 is 4.5 percent higher than 2010-2011, primarily as a result of a balloon payment on equipment leasing debt that occurs every other year. The budget for the general fund, which accounts for municipal services that are covered primarily by property and sales taxes and other general purpose revenue, is up only 1.2 percent, to $171.6 million.
With the exception of the water and sewer rate increases approved earlier this month by the Utility Commission, the proposed budget has no new or increased user fees. Water rates would increase 8 percent and sewer rates would increase 9 percent to cover debt service for improvements in water and sewer plants and the distribution and collection system.
Grants to community agencies would remain at the same level as this year. The city would also make a contribution of $50,000 to the Creative Corridors Coalition to match a one-time grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.
City employees would be eligible for merit pay increases of up to 1.5 percent or a minimum of $500. Employees last received a pay raise in July 2008.
The proposed budget for capital improvements includes $50.7 million for water and sewer, stormwater management and solid waste disposal projects, including $12 million for improvements to the Muddy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, $4.4 million to replace aging water and sewer lines in the Ardmore neighborhood, and $4.4 million for improvements to the R.W. Neilson Water Treatment Plant. Other capital spending includes $3 million for replacing buses operated by the Winston-Salem Transit Authority, $1.7 million for resurfacing city streets and $2 million to repair or replace bridges.
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 (link below).
The City Council's Finance Committee will hold workshops on the budget at 4 p.m. June 2, June 7, and June 13 in the Council Committee Room (Room 239) on the second floor of City Hall. A fourth workshop would be held at 2 p.m. June 14, if needed. These workshops are open to the public but are for the purpose of allowing council members to study the proposed budget. Citizens may watch these workshops live on WSTV 13, the Government Channel on Time Warner Cable in Forsyth County.
The Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. June 9 in the Council Chamber (Room 230) on the second floor of City Hall. This hearing will be carried live on WSTV 13.
The Citizen Budget Advisory Council will review the budget at 4 p.m. June 8 in Room 348 of City Hall.
The Public Safety Committee will review the budgets for the Police, Fire and Emergency Management departments at 5:30 p.m. June 13 in the Council Committee Room. This meeting will be carried live on WSTV 13.
The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. June 20 in the Council Chamber before voting on the budget. This hearing will be carried live on WSTV 13.
Citizens can also phone in comments about the budget on the city's Citizen Feedback line, 734-1400, or submit comments through the form on the city web site.
Read the proposed 2011-2012 budget
Online comment form