City budget to enhance buses for Bus. 40 closing

City budget to enhance buses for Bus. 40 closing
June 07
12:31 2018

The City of Winston-Salem’s proposed budget features $7.3 million to enhance transportation to mitigate the congestion expected from the upcoming closure of Business 40.

This was just one of the things in the $530 million budget for 2018-19 that was presented to the City Council in a special meeting last Thursday, May 31. The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at City Hall tonight, June 7, at 4 p.m. and will vote on the budget on June 18.

The budget keeps current service levels without raising taxes and raises the minimum pay for city workers to $12.50 an hour. The city remains committed to reaching a $15 minimum wage for its employees, according to City Manager Lee Garrity.

“It is very doable to get to $15 by 2021,” said Garrity.

The extra $7.3 million comes from a N.C. Department of Transportation grant to increase public transportation when a portion of Business 40 is scheduled to close this fall for construction. The closure is expected to last 20 months and will greatly increase traffic congestion on other roads.

The money is planned to be used to extend the hours and increase the frequency of service on eight bus routes that would be used to avoid the Business 40 closure. It will also be used for park and ride lots the city will lease to let drivers park their cars and take the bus. In addition, there’ll be a guaranteed ride home program that’ll transport people home who miss the last run of their bus.

Resident Phillip Summers made a public comment during the hearing with a suggestion for a free bus route combining Routes 87 and 107 to help with the Business 40 traffic concerns.

The budget also implements the recommendations of the pay plan study to get the city’s positions at market rate starting in April 2019. The plan proposes a minimum 2 percent increase to get the 307 positions below market up to that level with a 2 percent compression increase for the 364 positions in market range. This includes administrative, professional/technical, supervisory and managerial positions.

For public safety positions, the study proposed new pay grades that would result in a third of positions seeing increases, and new starting salaries of $41,443 for police officers and $39,470 for firefighters. The budget also continues the annual 2 percent public safety retention bonus.

There are some cost saving measures in the budget, such as freezing long vacant positions, and some positions that become vacant in the future, for $473,000 in savings and freezing some grant-funded police positions that were never filled, which’ll save $128,000. The elimination of commercial dumpster service starting next year is expected to save $309,000 and greater use of automated side loader garbage trucks will save $210,000 a year. Sanitation workers affected by those two changes will be relocated to other positions.

Under the proposed budget, city property tax rate will remain 59.74 cents for every $100 of property value.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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