The city manager's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 has been released, and discussion is underway.
Budget review underway: As predicted, this has shaped up as a tough budget year. The city manager's proposed budget, released May 24, includes a proposed 4.2 cent property tax rate hike, primarily to maintain current levels of key public services like police, fire, sanitation, and transportation. It also contains an unprecedented proposal to increase city bus fares by a whopping 30%. I am concerned about both of those proposals, and am actively working with other council members in an effort to find ways to pare them back without slashing key services. It will not be easy. Most of those options have already been employed. The city's general fund budget this year (minus federal grants) is already lower than it was four years ago, and employs fewer individuals. Some special funds, especially the Mass Transit Fund and the Health Fund, are out of the reserves which have helped us to cushion the budget impacts from the recession. Summaries of the manager's budget proposal and links to the full budget document can be found online here: http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/MarketingAndCommunications/NewsArchive/News2012/Articles/BudgetProposedFor2012-2013
I have identified some possible additional places for cuts, but have no guarantee of winning approval for them. For those interested, suggestions are always welcome, and there will be two formal public hearing opportunities before the full city council: Tuesday, June 5, at 7 p.m.; and Monday, June 18, at 7 p.m.; both at City Hall. The final budget vote is scheduled for June 18.
Greenways update: There are several items of interest to report this month to those interested in our city's greenways system.
--First, the proposed Greenway Plan Update has finished going through its public reviews, has been approved by the City/County Planning Board, and is on the agenda of the city council for public hearing and discussion this Monday night, June 4, at 7 p.m. at City Hall. I believe that this is a solid and thoughtful update, with good engineering review and public input. It contains among its recommended priority greenways two sections of direct impact to the Southwest Ward: Little Creek phase 2A from Atwood Road to Somerset Road; and Salem Creek westward extension from Marketplace Mall to the Forsyth Tech main campus. You can review the full plan update online here: http://www.cityofws.org/Assets/CityOfWS/Documents/Planning/Publications/Parks_Greenways/Greenway_Plan_Update_20120514.pdf
--Second, we have a ribbon-cutting opening ceremony planned this month for one new greenway section that has been long awaited: Brushy Fork Creek phase 3 between 5th Street and Lowery Street. The event will be held Friday, June 22, at 10 a.m., site to be announced. Let me know if you are interested in attending, and I will be sure you get the detailed announcement.
--Third, the city council at our May 21 meeting gave final approval to the funding for the Cedar Trails connection to the Muddy Creek Greenway. This project is noteworthy because it will give direct safe access to that popular greenway to multiple neighborhoods on the east side of Muddy Creek, and because the project originated with the neighbors themselves. After seeing how popular and valuable the existing greenway is to neighborhoods on the west side of the creek, people on the east side undertook an active and successful campaign to add their own direct link to the greenway.
--Finally, I am still hopeful that we will be able to get to the construction of Little Creek phase 1 this year. The latest delays resulted from the time required for engineering redesigns and regulatory approvals of the creek crossing itself, to ensure that no increase in flooding will result. Thanks for your patience, and please bear with us a little longer.
Peters Creek Parkway Corridor Study workshop: A stakeholders group of local business representatives, agency staff, and neighbors from the adjacent Ardmore and West Salem neighborhoods has been working for several months on ideas for improving the Peters Creek Parkway transportation corridor between Business 40 and I-40. Some possible concepts are ready for public review, and will be shared at a public information workshop (drop-in format) on Tuesday, June 12, from 4 to 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Diggs-Latham Elementary School on Hutton Street. More information is available online here: http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/Transportation/Events/PetersCreekParkwayPublicInformationWorkshop6-12-2012
Recycling for multi-family complexes: Since the city started using the convenient new roll-out recycling carts, I've received several inquiries about whether arrangements can be made for multi-family housing complexes to participate in this program. The answer is yes. To participate, the complex's management needs to contact the city Sanitation Department to discuss the location of centralized pickup sites for the complex. There is no charge for the service, and participation is encouraged. If anyone has trouble getting in contact with the right person within Sanitation, let me know and I will arrange it.
Amendment one resolution: The city council at our May 7 meeting approved a resolution of opposition to the constitutional amendment dealing with the definition of civil unions in North Carolina. Our resolution expressed concern with the potential impacts of Amendment One on enforcement of domestic violence protections for unmarried victims; the potential loss of local government health insurance coverage for households not headed by a married couple; and potential adverse effects on city economic development recruitment efforts. Since the amendment was approved by state voters on May 8, we will have to deal with the legal consequences of its adoption, even though a majority of Winston-Salem city voters opposed it. However, I hope that the council's approval of a resolution in opposition to the amendment will help us in continuing to present our city as a welcoming environment for investment by companies with hiring policies that encourage diversity in their workforce.
Paving questions in utility project work area: Work has now been completed on the utilities line renovation work in the first sub-section of the Ardmore neighborhood to be reached. I have asked the city Streets Department to undertake a comprehensive review of pavement condition of the streets which experienced a lot of work. I look to hear back from them over the next couple of months about any streets that would be proposed for total repaving soon. One of the items under consideration in this year's budget is the addition of more funding for street repaving work. In the meantime, please continue to advise CityLink (and me) of any spots that are especially dangerous, and I will see that they are checked and patched as needed.
Police Department citizen volunteer program: Finally this month, I'd like to let you know about a new volunteer program being rolled out by the Winston-Salem Police Department. The program will offer an opportunity for citizen volunteers to assist with clerical and administrative tasks within WSPD, simultaneously building police/community contacts, giving interested citizens a way to put their skills to work for our community, and allowing WSPD employees to spend more time in direct public safety work. More information, including links to the application process, is available online here: http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/Police/CrimePrevention/Articles/VIPS
That's my report for May. As always, you are welcome to email me at email@example.com with comments or questions. Thanks!