$530.9 Million Budget Proposed for 2021-2022
After a year of austerity driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, a rebound in city revenues would allow the city to return in large part to “business as usual” under the proposed $530.9 million budget for 2021-22 that City Manager Lee Garrity presented today to Mayor Allen Joines and the City Council.
The proposed budget allocates $380.4 million for operations, $40.5 million for debt service and $110 million for capital improvements. The property tax rate would be reduced 1.5 cents to 62.24 cents per $100 of assessed value. Water and sewer rates would increase 3.5 percent. All other user fees would remain the same.
Despite the reduction in the tax rate, many property owners may see an increase in their property tax bill due to the 2021 property revaluation by Forsyth County that saw property values increase by an average of 14.8 percent.
The City Council’s Finance Committee began reviewing the budget today and will hold a public hearing June 3. The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on the budget on June 21. By state law, the council must adopt a budget for 2021-2022 by June 30. The budget would take effect July 1.
Two federal stimulus efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act of December 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March 2021, provided significant growth in sales tax revenue and the property tax base, City Manager Lee Garrity said in his cover letter with the budget. “Therefore, the FY 2021-22 budget is based on recovery, restoration and maintaining a standard of excellence in delivering public services to our community….
“It is important to reinstate regular employee pay for performance (merit), replace aging equipment and vehicles, further enhance information systems technology improvements and respond to growing service needs.”
Under the proposed budget, the city would continue to keep its minimum wage at $15 an hour, an increase implemented earlier this year thanks to the CARES Act. All employees would be eligible for merit raises and police officers and firefighters would receive a 2 percent supplemental pay increase to further the city’s efforts to recruit and retain qualified public safety personnel.
The proposed budget does not include the $51.7 million that the city is slated to receive from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. That money will be allocated under a separate process.
The proposed budget is $60.3 million more than the current budget and reflects a $57.4 million increase in capital spending, and an $18.2 million increase in spending for operations. However, debt service would decrease by $15.3 million.
Spending in the General Fund, which accounts for most tax-supported services, would increase by $7.6 million to $221.4 million. For the first time in several years, the better-than-expected revenues would allow the city to balance the budget without taking money out of its fund balance, which serves as the “savings account” for the General Fund.
Garrity recommends increasing the city workforce by eight positions, including four positions for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that he recently established to foster diversity, equity and inclusion throughout city-wide internal processes. Utilities would gain three positions and the Fire Department, one.
The proposed budget for capital improvements includes $40 million for rehabilitation and improvements to the Neilson Water Treatment Plant and $35.8 million in other water, sewer, landfill and stormwater infrastructure projects. The capital budget also includes money for a fire ladder truck, two fire engines and 75 new police vehicles to replace patrol vehicles that have reached the end of their service life. The capital budget does not include bond projects that voters approved in 2014 and 2018, which are handled in a separate appropriation.
The proposed budget recommends $1.2 million in grants to community agencies, $1.5 million in grants to human-service agencies, and $620,720 for downtown improvements financed by the 9-cent levy recommended by the Downtown Winston-Salem Business Improvement District Advisory Committee.
How to participate in the budget process
- The proposed budget will be posted online by June 3 at CityofWS.org/budget.
- All meetings and workshops related to the budget will be televised live on WSTV Digital Media (channel 13 on Spectrum or channel 99 on AT&T Uverse) or online through the city website or the city’s YouTube channel. Watch online.
- The City Council’s Finance Committee will hold an online workshop on the budget at 5 p.m. June 3, followed by virtual public hearing via Zoom on the proposed budget at 7 p.m. Citizens who would like to speak during the public hearings will find a link at CityofWS.org/ccvirtual. The link has been posted but will not be active until an hour before the hearing starts.
- The Finance Committee will hold an online workshop on the budget at 4 p.m. June 10 to consider recommending a budget and the property tax rate.
- The mayor and City Council will hold a virtual public hearing via Zoom on the budget at 7 p.m. June 21 before voting on the budget. Citizens who would like to speak will find a link at CityofWS.org/ccvirtual. The link will be posted closer to the hearing date but will not be active until an hour before the hearing starts.
- Citizens can also phone in comments about the budget on the city’s Citizen Feedback line, 336-734-1400, or submit comments through a form on the city website (form will be activated by June 3).