Carter G. Woodson, IDR among those seeking funds

Carter G. Woodson, IDR among those seeking funds
May 31
05:00 2018

County commissioners heard a preview of the upcoming $433.9 million budget, and requests to be added to it from organizations such as Carter G. Woodson School and Freedom Tree at IDR (Institute for Dismantling Racism), during its meeting last week.

An all-day budget session is planned for today, with additional workshops next week. A public hearing on the budget will be held on June 4 at 2 p.m. with a vote on June 7 at 2 p.m. The budget will go into effect on July 1.

County Manager Dudley Watts gave commissioners a brief presentation on the balanced 2018-19 continuation budget that keeps current services funded.  This includes a 2.3 cents property tax increase per $100 of property valuation to cover the debt from $115 million in limited obligation bonds for the construction of a new courthouse. This brings the total county property tax to 74.65 cents per $100 of property valuation. Debt for voter approved bonds for education, library and parks facilities account for 7.98 cents of the property tax.

Watts’ budget summary said there is also the option of deferring the tax increase until next year or putting a referendum on the November ballot for a quarter cent county sales tax earmarked for the courthouse.

The budget included $125.9 million for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, which is below the system’s request for $126.1 million. Overall personnel-related costs totaled $145 million and included continuing the pay performance plan and funds for compensation and classification adjustments for various positions pending the completion of a pay study.

Watts said that the budget is tighter than expected, with a disconnect between construction permit activity and its impact to the tax base due to exclusions, exemptions and the timing of completion for various projects. This caused permit data to grow 9.9 percent while the tax base only grew by 1.5 percent.

“We’re in a very, very good economy, it’s just not as good as you think it might be when it comes to local government revenues,” said Watts.

The continuation budget is a starting point, with nearly $9 million in alternate service levels that various organizations and department heads have requested be added to the budget. If added, they would typically need to be paid for with cuts or new revenue.

During the public comment period at last week’s meeting, the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity’s Bishop Todd Fulton, along with students and others from Carter G. Woodson School, asked for the county to include $50,000 in its budget to match the funds the school is raising for a community garden to teach students how to be urban farmers. The charter school’s founder, Hazel Mack, said it’s another way to teach students, who come from low-income families, profitable skills.

“This urban garden is one of the ways we can address that problem in our community using the skills that we have ourselves, and we’ve come to ask for some of our taxpayer dollars to help us do that,” said Mack.

Also during the public comments, Rev. Willard Bass of Freedom Tree at IDR appealed for $200,000 for SHARE Cooperative of Winston-Salem, an IDR initiative that’s trying to address food deserts with a co-op member-owned grocery store at West Salem Shopping Center on Peters Creek.

There are numerous other nonprofit requests for county funds, including Phoenix Rising, which is trying to get $35,000 for the current adult drug court to match funding already approved by the City of Winston-Salem.

The many departmental requests for funds include $211,072 for a new external communication office consisting of a director and two staff members whose duties would include video production of commissioner meetings along with new online videos of the boards of Elections, Equalization and Review, Social Services and Public Health. Currently, the county contracts with three people to produce videos of commissioner meetings.

Other requests include $30,000 for a county Veterans Services Office and $2.4 million to increase the county’s 401(k) contribution for its employees from 2.5 percent to 5 percent. 

Animal Control is asking for $53,074 for a new animal control officer and $20,000 for a surgical suite at the animal shelter so animals no longer have to go offsite for spay/neuter procedures. Public Health is asking for $1 million for an additional team to help first-time mothers in the Nurse/Family Partnership and $590,427 for eight new school nurses in addition to the 32.5 full-time school nurses it currently employees.

The Community and Economic Development department is asking for $400,000 to help the Shalom Project’s Peters Creek Community Initiative turn the Budget Inn property on Peters Creek into a development with affordable housing and a new headquarters for Shalom. The nonprofit is also asking the city for $600,000 for the project.

In addition to alternate service levels, commissioners also plan to discuss the county’s $10 million shortfall in funding the new Kaleideum museum and the request for an additional $12.4 million for the project.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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