$470.6 million city budget proposed for 2020-2021

$470.6 million city budget  proposed for 2020-2021
May 27
15:06 2020

City services to residents would remain at current levels, but the city would implement a variety of belt-tightening measures to close a $13.4 million shortfall driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, under the proposed $470.6 million budget for 2020-21 that City Manager Lee Garrity presented to Mayor Allen Joines and the City Council.

The proposed budget allocates $362.2 million for operations, $55.7 million for debt service, and $52.6 million for capital improvements. The property tax rate would remain unchanged at 63.74 cents per $100 of assessed value and all user fees, including water and sewer rates, would remain the same.

The City Council’s Finance Committee has begun reviewing the budget and will hold a public hearing May 28. The City 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 2020-2021 by June 30. The budget would take effect July 1.

With COVID-19 shutting down much of the economy during the spring and the economic fallout stretching into the next fiscal year, the city is eliminating pay increases, postponing a planned increase in its minimum wage, eliminating vacant positions, instituting a hiring freeze on all but critical positions, postponing all but the most urgent replacements of equipment, and redirecting $4 million that would otherwise have been set aside for economic development. Even so, to fully close the budget gap, the city will have to use $3.4 million more from its fund balance – its “savings” – than it originally expected.

By taking these steps, City Manager Lee Garrity said in his cover letter with the budget, “There will be no reduction in service levels to citizens, no staff layoffs, no delay in moving forward with capital investments and bond projects, and no change in support to community agencies.”

The proposed budget is $25.8 million less than the current budget and reflects a $29.4 million reduction in capital spending and a $6.2 million reduction in spending for operations. However, debt service would increase $9.7 million to repay general obligation bonds. Spending in the General Fund, which accounts for most tax-supported services, would increase by $2.2 million to $214.1 million.

Garrity recommends eliminating 24 vacant positions: three from Operations, two each from Sanitation, Transportation, Recreation, and Engineering, and one each from the City manager’s office, Planning, and a civilian position with the Police Department. Ten other police positions associated with the school resource officer program that the department is phasing over to the Sheriff’s Office, would be eliminated.

Four positions would be added, one in Risk Management and three in Utilities, to administer a new state-mandated program, for a net reduction of 20 positions in the city workforce.

The proposed budget for capital improvements includes $41.9 million for water, sewer, stormwater and landfill projects, $4.2 million for transportation and transit including $1.8 million for street resurfacing, and $1.9 million for a new ladder truck for the Fire Department. 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 funded out of the general fund and the occupancy tax, and $707,900 for downtown improvements, financed by the 9-cent levy recommended by the Downtown Winston-Salem Business Improvement District Advisory Committee. The levy would be spent in six areas: improving cleanliness, increasing safety, improving marketing, accelerating development, enhancing downtown appearance and administration.

How to participate in the budget process

The proposed budget is posted online on the city website,

The City Council’s Finance Committee will hold an online workshop and public hearing on the budget at 4 p.m. May 28. City residents can watch the workshop live on WSTV Digital Media (channel 13 on Spectrum or channel 99 on AT&T Uverse) or online through the city’s website or the city’s YouTube channel. To watch online, go to and select the clapboard icon under the search box. There will be an option to watch live either through the website or YouTube. Citizens who would like to speak during the public hearing should go to or call 1-408-418-9388. The direct link to the hearing is

The Finance Committee will hold a workshop on the budget at 4 p.m. June 4 to consider recommending a budget and the property tax rate. This workshop is tentatively scheduled to be held online and can be viewed on WSTV Digital Media and online.

The mayor and City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. June 15 before voting on the budget. The location of this hearing will be announced at a later date and will be posted on the city’s website, This hearing will be televised live by WSTV Digital Media.

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. 

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