Forsyth County commissioners unanimously approved a $500 million budget that lowers the property tax rate by 6.57 cents while maintaining services and investing in the community.
The budget lowers the tax rate to 67.78 cents per $100 of property value, a significant reduction from the current 74.35 cent rate. This is due to the year’s strong property tax revaluation, which increased the estimated revenue from each penny of property tax from $3.7 million to $4.2 million.
Education remains the county’s largest service area in terms of expenditures, with 32 percent, or $162.2 million, of the General Fund budget. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools receives 92 percent of those funds, including $17.6 million for local teacher supplements from the ¼ cent county sales tax. In addition to the funding approved by the Board in the FY22 budget, WS/FC Schools is expected to benefit from a mid-year increase of $3 million in sales tax revenue based on continued sales tax growth in the current fiscal year.. Education bond projects, like building and renovating schools, also take up most of the general fund budget devoted to debt service.
New spending in the budget included $1.2 million to improve Emergency Medical Services response time by adding new positions, reclassifying others, and purchasing two new ambulances. Public Health received $110,000 for a Neighborhood Equity Atlas that will map out inequality in the county and measure change in these areas to highlight successful programs and guide the decision making process for county departments and other organizations.
The adopted budget also includes $300,000 to finish the first floor buildout at Social Services that’s part of its long-term goal of streamlining intake and eligibility processes. Forsyth Tech received $169,028 for three additional security officers. Parks will be able to complete a greenway at Triad Park based on additional funding provided by the Board of Commissioners. The Sheriff was provided $100,000 for an additional intelligence specialist for the Real Time Intelligence Center. In addition to the Neighborhood Equity Atlas, Public Health received $60,216 for a men’s health coordinator and additional resources were provided to Human Resources for marketing and recruitment, while the Commissioners also funded a citizen survey of county services, a contract for the legislative services, and an internship program with two part-time positions in the commissioners and manager’s office.
For county employees, the budget has a 1-4 percent merit increase, market rate adjustments for several positions, and will increase the county’s minimum pay to $9.86.
The budget includes special appropriations for local non-profits with several non-profits receiving increases in funding, including Senior Services, Shepard’s Center, Center for Creative Economy, Arts Council and Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods. The Winston-Salem Theater Alliance and a request from The Conservation Fund to help preserve the historic Shallow Ford site both received new funding. Other special appropriations included Kaleideum, National Black Theatre Festival, HARRY Veterans Services, Experiment in Self-Reliance and Children’s Law Center, along with the county’s contribution to TransAid transportation for residents with disabilities.
The commissioners will take another look at special appropriation requests in the next few months when they consider how to allocate American Rescue Plan Act funding after they’ve received more guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. This will include several requests that didn’t receive funding in the adopted budget. County staff will also be developing and coordinating a process to accept new proposals for this funding. Commissioners encourage applicants to focus on Qualified Census Tract with the hope that 80 percent of the funds available will reach the most marginalized populations.
The budget also set the tax rates for the volunteer fire departments serving the rural areas and the County-wide fire tax for the supplement staffing program. The rate for the supplemental staffing program was reduced from .73 to .39 cents per $100 valuation due to the revaluation and the strong sales tax revenue.
All the commissioners praised the budget staff for their hard work in preparing the budget during this tumultuous time.
The preliminary budget is still available to view online on the Budget Department website. The final, approved budget, which goes into effect on July 1, will be available online by the end of the month.