February 2018 Highlights

The proposed 2018 city projects bond package continued to take shape in February.

Proposed 2018 city bond package takes another step forward:     At our meeting on February 26, the city council gave tentative approval to a proposed 2018 bond package to go out for public comment.  The proposed package totals $122 million in capital investments, including $14.5 million for economic development projects; $11.7 million for housing projects; $21.1 million for public safety projects; $31 million for parks and recreation projects; and $43.7 million for transportation projects.  These include a combination of citywide funding not dedicated to any one specific project (e.g., $13.6 million for street resurfacing), and funding targeted to specific named projects (e.g., $1.5 million for Little Creek Greenway extension, $2.5 million for Washington Park renovations, $500,000 for Easton Park restrooms, etc.).

Proposed specific project funding of note to the Southwest Ward includes $1.5 million for the Little Creek Greenway extension; $1 million for an extended pedestrian pathway connecting Ardmore to the Salem Creek Greenway; and an additional $1 million for Miller Park repairs and renovations.  The listing of proposed bond investments is not yet available online through the city website, so I’m providing my own link to part of that information here:  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10214448407340429&set=a.1896574690530.108592.1126494468&type=3&theater

This total of $122 million compares to the $139 million in city bonds approved by public referendum in 2014.  City staff worked hard to get those bond funds invested in building the projects promised.  The status of those projects can be checked online here:  https://2014bonds.cityofws.org/   Winston-Salem has less public debt per capita than other major cities in North Carolina (Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh), and would be in good fiscal condition to take on the recommended bonds if voters approve them.  

Next steps for this process include public input meetings in March and April, a city council decision on May 21 about what to put on the ballot, and finally a public referendum vote on November 6.  The public meeting for the Southwest Ward will be held on Tuesday, March 27, beginning at 6 p.m. at Miller Park Recreation Center.  The entire schedule of public input meetings citywide will be published in March.

UPDATE:  The proposed bond package details, including the public meeting schedule, are now available online here:  http://cityofws.org/budget

There are a few other points that may be useful background for folks not familiar in detail with the kinds of investments that can be considered for city public bonds referenda. 
  • First, these projects are limited to CITY projects (which don't include schools, for one major example, because the school system is run and funded by other boards elected at the county level). 
  • The projects are also limited to CAPITAL projects, not operating expenses. For example, building a new fire station is eligible for bond funding, but boosting firefighters' salaries is not. Building new housing projects would be eligible; funding operating expenses for a homeless shelter would not. Building or renovating a recreation center would be eligible; running a youth basketball program would not.  Bonds pay for capital expenses. Operating expenses should come from ongoing, recurring revenue (like property and sales taxes), and should be balanced on that basis.
  • Finally, the cost of repaying bonds gets added to the budgets which are approved every year. That's why a responsible government always tells voters what a proposed bond package would do to the tax rate, so that voters are making an informed decision.  Given Winston-Salem’s tax base, the proposed $122 million would cost about four cents on the tax rate.

Bulky item pickup begins:     Winston-Salem bulky item pickup for 2018 returns beginning the week of March 5.  To find out when your neighborhood is scheduled for collection, plus all the other details of what is collected and how, start here:  http://www.cityofws.org/News/ID/20576/Bulky-Item-Collection-Returns

Pedestrian safety projects:     Two important pedestrian safety projects in the Southwest Ward received favorable public comment response in February, and will be implemented.  These will create well-marked pedestrian crosswalks with protected crossing signals at two busy intersections:  Silas Creek Parkway and Miller Street (at the Forsyth Tech main campus); and Hawthorne Road and Academy Street.

Business 40 work and lane closures:    Lane closures are coming more frequently on Business 40 through downtown as work continues on the interchange with Peters Creek Parkway.  You should be able to keep up with planned closures here:  www.business40nc.com 

City resident satisfaction survey:     Interested in participating in a Winston-Salem city residents satisfaction survey?  Get the details here:  http://www.cityofws.org/News/ID/20570/City-Conducting-Resident-Satisfaction-Survey

Forsyth Creek Week:     The annual week of creek walks and other educational events on the flowing waters of our county takes place this year March 17-25.  Get the details on how to take part here:  http://forsythcreekweek.squarespace.com/

That’s my report for February.  As always, you are welcome to email me at danbesse@danbesse.org with comments or questions.  Thanks!