City services would be maintained at their current level, Trans-Aid and some bus routes would begin Sunday hours and property owners whose property declined in value by 8 percent or more would pay less in city property taxes under the $378.8 million budget that City Manager Lee Garrity has recommended to the City Council.
The proposed budget is 3.4 percent lower than this year’s $392 million budget. It allocates $307.3 million for operations and debt service and $71.5 million for capital improvements.
The proposed property tax rate of 53 cents per $100 of assessed value is 3.9 cents higher than the current rate of 49.1 cents; however, more than 60 percent of city property owners would see their tax bill decline because of the drop in house values.
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 $173.7 million.
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 17. By state law, the council must adopt a budget for 2013-2014 by June 30. The budget would take effect July 1.
In his budget message to the City Council, Garrity noted that the proposed 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.
“A revenue-neutral adjustment would increase the current rate of 49.1 cents to 54.25 cents,” Garrity said. “While the rate adjustment (to 53 cents) represents an 8 percent increase, it is a real reduction in the rate. In other words, if the reappraisal had not occurred, the tax rate would decrease from 49.1 cents to 47.85 cents.”
This reduction would reduce overall property tax revenue by $2.4 million. The actual impact on individual property owners would depend on how revaluation affected their property value. An owner of a $100,000 house whose value did not change would pay $39 more in property taxes. If that house dropped 5 percent in value to $95,000, the tax bill would increase $13. If the house dropped 8 percent in value to $92,000, the tax bill would 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 would see their tax bill decrease under the proposed rate.
“To minimize the impact of the reappraisal on the level of service provided by the city,” Garrity said, “I am proposing a budget for FY 13-14 that reduces overall expenditures and invests in equipment and technologies that will position the city to realize additional operating savings in future years.”
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 proposed 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 proposals to increase fees for cemetery plots and grave openings, increase fines for weeded-lot violations, and increase inspection fees to better reflect the cost of services.
The proposed budget would set aside 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 City Council and the Winston-Salem Transit Authority board have received requests over the past few years to offer Sunday service.
Grants to community agencies would remain at the same level as this year.
The city payroll would be reduced by 52 positions, including 28 positions related to the sale of LJVM Coliseum and Bowman Gray Stadium. City employees would be eligible for merit pay increases of up to 1.5 percent.
The proposed 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.
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. The proposed budget can also be viewed online at CityofWS.org.
- The City Council’s Finance Committee will hold workshops on the budget at 4 p.m. May 30, June 4 and June 10 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 11, 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 TimeWarner Cable channel 13 and AT&T U-verse channel 99 in Forsyth County. WSTV 13 can also be viewed live online at CityofWS.org.
- The Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. June 6 in the Council Chamber (Room 230) on the second floor of City Hall. This hearing will be carried live on WSTV 13.
- The Citizens’ Budget Advisory Council will review the budget at 4 p.m. June 5 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 10 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 17 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 a form on the city website.
Budget Office and proposed 2013-2014 document
You can use this online percentage calculator to find the increase/decrease - use option 3 (new window; not on the the city web site)