December 2004 Highlights

For the second month in a row, the Dell economic development project dominated discussions in Winston-Salem. Here’s a rundown of noteworthy city news at the end of 2004:

A done Dell: Dell Computers announced on December 22 that it was selecting Winston-Salem as the site of its new manufacturing plant. The new plant will be the largest of Dell’s seven manufacturing facilities worldwide. It will be the anchor operation of the new Alliance Science and Technology Park in southeastern Winston-Salem. Under the deal with state and local governments, Dell will provide at least 1,700 jobs and invest at least $100 million at its facility here over the next five years. All of the local and state incentives are contingent upon Dell meeting these commitments. Most of the incentives are released only after Dell’s investments are underway, and are sized to track the amount of their local tax base then installed. No increase in any local tax is planned or anticipated to pay for any of these incentives. No reduction in any other local progam or service is expected to result.

Instead, the net positive impact of this project is expected to be massive in terms of both local revenues and the overall economy. Under Dell’s fast-track construction schedule, the plant is to begin operation by early fall 2005. Site preparation is underway. Dell’s requirement that its suppliers be located nearby will necessitate immediate additional local industrial investment by other companies. The total local economic impact of the project may exceed 5,000 jobs and $1 billion over the next five years. Overall, this is one of those rare true watershed events for our regional economy.

Sanitation services: Two city service notes are timely in this area:

Leaf pickup: As usual, I’ve received a lot of questions about timing of leaf pickup this season. There’s still a little time left in the scheduled leaf pickup season this year, which ends in January. If you have leaves that still need collection, you can call the Sanitation Division at 727-2638 to learn the approximate date of the next sweep of your street. Please rake them to the curb as soon as possible during the first week of January, and take care not to block access with a parked car.

Christmas tree pickup: The city is in the process of collecting Christmas trees left curbside for recycling. This takes a while for completion. If you have a tree out that you’d like to remove sooner, more information about available dropoff sites is available from the Vegetation Management Division at 748-3020.

Property tax revaluation: Every four years, the Forsyth County tax assessor’s office conducts a reappraisal of property tax values. When the overall trend of local property values is upward, as at present, those reappraisal notices tend to produce an unpleasant "sticker shock" for many of us. As your Winston-Salem City Council representative, there are three notes I should make in connection with this process.

First, reappraisal is a county government process. As your city representative, I have no oversight jurisdiction for county agencies. I and the other City Council members are all just fellow citizens along for the ride in the reappraisal process.

Second, property tax value is just the first step toward calculating actual tax bills. Your bill for this year is based on your property value in July 2004. For your bills starting next year, a new tax rate will apply. The new tax rates (both city and county) should be adjusted to try to offset the average effect of the revaluation on taxpayers. (Again, however, I should note that the City Council only controls the city tax rate, not the county rate. The County Commissioners set the county rate.)

Third, if you believe that your individual property value reappraisal is unreasonable, there is an individual appeal process. That appeals process is described on your reappraisal notice. If you are interested in appealing your individual reappraisal, please note that your time limit may be about to expire.

If you have other questions about your tax assessment, I recommend that you contact the Forsyth County Tax Assessor’s office at 703-2300, or check its web page at www.forsyth.cc/tax.

Clean air developments: I’ve been working as the Winston-Salem City Council representative to the Piedmont Triad Early Action Compact (clean air coalition) since March 2003. In December, the state of North Carolina formally submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the statewide ozone pollution cleanup plan, including strategies for the Triad which we developed and approved here. Also during December, the EPA designated two areas in North Carolina as out of compliance ("nonattainment") with federal clean air standards for soot ("fine particulates"). One of those areas is in the Triad, but Forsyth County managed to escape inclusion. We’re continuing to work to implement our early-action air cleanup plans regionwide. That’s important for public health. Nationwide, excess fine particulates pollution aggravates cardiovascular and respiratory disease, annually resulting in thousands of premature deaths, tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, and millions of work days lost to illness.

Bicycle plan: During October, the city and county Transportation Departments sponsored a public workshop to take comments on how to improve opportunities and safety for bicycling in our community. The consulting firm Greenways Inc. has prepared a draft plan based on that input. There will be another public comment opportunity on that plan on Thursday, January 20, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall South. For more information, contact the city/county Bicycle Advisory Committee coordinator, Lakesha Dunbar, at 747-6877 or lakeshad@cityofws.org.