City passes budget

Many attendees wore Working America shirts at Monday night’s City Council meeting to show support for raising the minimum wage for city workers to $15 an hour by 2021.

City passes budget
June 21
03:30 2018

W-S Council commits to $15 wage minimum by 2021

The Winston-Salem City Council passed its $530 million budget with no tax increase on Monday, June 18, with a commitment to raise the minimum wage for city workers to $15 by 2021.

Last month, several advocates spoke during a public comment session asking for the city to put its commitment to reach a living or family wage of $15 an hour by 2021 into a resolution. The city did just that as it included it in its annual personnel resolution, which increased the minimum city wage for this year to $12.50 an hour.

Before the vote, Rev. Craig Schaub of Parkway United Church of Christ urged the council to make the commitment.

“Vote for a budget that sustains families, that strengthens our city,” said Schaub.

Bishop Willard Bass, who spoke during the budget hearing to thank the city for its support of Freedom Tree at IDR, also added his support to a $15 minimum city wage.

“I believe what the family wage will do is help our community a lot by showing that we care for those who lack resources,” said Bass.

Many attendees wore red T-shirts from the worker advocacy group Working America to show their support, and some also spoke during the hearing. Several speakers were concerned about language in the resolution that said the goal was “subject to funding availability.”

City Manager Lee Garrity said that commitments the city makes on future funding are subject to money available in future budgets.

“The reality is, everything you do … even if that language wasn’t in there, everything is subject to the budget each year,” said Garrity.

City Council Member Dan Besse assured advocates that the council was committed to reaching $15.

“As a legal matter, there are limitations on our ability to bind future councils,” said Besse. “As a practical policy matter, I believe this would be a very difficult thing for future councils to walk back from.”

The council unanimously passed the budget and the personnel resolution, which also included pay plan adjustments and made Veterans Day a city holiday. No changes were made in the budget since it was proposed late last month. To save money, it reduces 15 unfilled positions. It also ends the city’s commercial dumpster service and increases the use of automated garbage trucks, though any sanitation workers affected by those changes will be relocated to other positions.  There’s also more than $7 million from a federal grant to mitigate the effects of Business 40 closure, which is scheduled to begin this fall. With no tax increase, the city’s property tax remains 59.74 cent per $100 of property value.

The council also unanimously voted on language for the city bond referendum and a hearing to be held on the bonds on Aug. 6 when City Council will vote to place them on the November ballot. The bonds are $43.7 million for streets and sidewalks, $31 million for parks and recreation, $21.1 million for public safety facilities, $14.5 million for economic development and $11.7 million for housing. The amount for each bond is set, but individual projects in each bond can still be changed. If voters approve all the bonds, city property taxes may increase up to 4 cents per $100 of property value.

Also during the meeting, the council unanimously approved compensation for glitches in fire and police pay, going back as far as 2005, that caused many employees to be underpaid. To fix the errors, 835 employees will receive compensation next month that can range from 1cent to more than $10,000. This will cost a total of $842,129.05 paid for out of RAMCO (Risk Acceptance Management Corp), a nonprofit the city established in 1988 to handle claims.

The payments are the result of a review by the Office of Performance and Accountability after a police officer reported last year that his pay wasn’t consistent with the 2006 pay plan. To avoid future errors, the city is implementing more automation, new procedures and more reviews of pay calculations and changes.   

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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