May 2005 Highlights


The big city news in May was led by the release of the City Manager’s proposed FY05-06 city budget.


Draft city budget:

 

The City Manager’s proposed city budget for FY05-06 was released May 19. The total budget is about $334 million, including $272 million for operations and debt service, and $62 million for capital expenditures. The general fund budget comprises about $148 million of that amount. (That’s the city’s primary fund for basic tax-supported services.) The proposed budget reduces the city’s property tax rate by 4.2 cents, from the current rate of 52.5 cents down to 48.3 cents. The reduction is scaled to offset the effects of property revaluation on the city’s tax base. (The proposed tax rate is intended to be "revenue neutral"—that is, to produce the same amount of revenue that would have been generated by the old tax rate if the revaluation had not occurred.)


The proposed budget contains no significant cuts in city services. It does contain a proposed increase in stormwater fees, primarily to cover costs of proposed repairs and improvements to the city’s stormwater drainage system. I suspect that those are legitimate project needs, but I have asked for more details outlining the projects which would be covered. I have also requested a review of alternatives that would reduce the fee impact on residential property owners. Both sets of information will be provided by staff to the City Council for our consideration.


The budget contains proposed "market pay adjustment" salary increases for police and firefighters, who are underpaid in Winston-Salem compared to other comparable North Carolina cities. It also contains five additional positions in the Inspections Division, to improve zoning complaint inspections, plan reviews, and erosion control inspections. The costs of those new positions will be substantially covered by related fees.


The proposed capital projects budget contains several items related to pedestrian safety needs that I have been advocating. These include $2.6 million for sidewalk construction and repair, and $920,000 for greenways development. The budget also includes $2.6 million for street resurfacing projects. I have also proposed seeking some funds within the capital budget for the important public safety need of "traffic calming" projects.


Copies of the complete budget proposal are available for public review at City Hall and at each branch of the Public Library in the city. Members of the public are welcome to sit in on the Finance Committee’s budget workshops on June 7, 9, and 13, beginning at 4 p.m. each day. Formal hearings with public comment opportunities will be held this Thursday, June 2, and on Monday, June 20, starting at 7:30 p.m. both days. Finally, of course, Winston-Salem residents (especially Southwest Ward residents) are more than welcome to contact me directly with comments or questions.


Reducing homelessness:

 

The City Council at our May 16 meeting quietly approved a routine but important action that I wanted to bring to your attention. That was our annual submission to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) an application for funding for local efforts to combat homelessness. Two of the city’s most effective roles in that fight are as the coordinator of applications among local care providers to meet priority needs, and as the applicant to HUD for funding for that consolidated plan. In those roles, Winston-Salem has received and distributed funding for 78 grants since 1994. This year, proposed grants of federal dollars would go to meet needs such as assistance to those whose housing has been lost or threatened due to domestic violence; permanent housing for disabled homeless persons; and intensive shelter-based substance abuse intervention. In efforts such as these, the city partners with responsible private non-profit organizations such as Family Services, Bethesda Center, Samaritan Ministries, AIDS Care Service, CenterPoint, Next Step Ministries, Experiment in Self Reliance, American Red Cross, and others.


Park playground equipment plans:

 

I’m happy to report this month that neighborhood efforts in Ardmore to raise funds for new playground equipment at Miller and Lockland Parks have been a great success. The project leader, Linda Pass of Westfield Avenue, deserves our thanks for her leadership. Linda invites neighborhood residents who are interested in the final fundraising efforts, selection of equipment, installation, etc., to contact her at

lpass@arcadis-us.com.


Bicycle plan:

 

I reported in December that the Winston-Salem Urban Area Bicycle Plan would be discussed at a public hearing in January. Now, the draft plan has been finalized and will be presented to the City Council for discussion at our meeting June 6. Among other things, the plan includes recommended priorities for bike lanes, on-road markings and signs, greenways and other shared-use paths, and striped or paved shoulders. The draft plan can be reviewed in full at

www.cityofws.org/DOT.


That’s all for the May report. As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions. Thanks.