Budget outlook: City budget staff reported this month on early revenue projections for the coming fiscal year. Those projections indicate that we should be able to maintain current operating budget needs without an additional property tax rate increment. That would mean that the only needed change to the property tax rate would be the 2.5 cent increase for the debt service fund, authorized by voters in approving the bond issues last fall.
This positive forecast assumes that the state legislature does not take any further actions this year to take away more revenue from local governments. Over the past two years, the N.C. state legislature has made changes to local revenue sources (property tax, sales tax, and business license fees) that have taken about $6.8 million in annual revenue from the City of Winston-Salem. Unfortunately, the legislature is now debating further changes in sales taxes that if approved could take another $2.3 million from the city’s annual revenues. I encourage constituents to let your state legislators know that this would result in either important service cuts or more taxes at the local level. We and other cities need to encourage state legislators to balance the state budget without continuing to take away local revenues. Taking away local revenues to cover up state shortfalls isn’t a real tax cut—it’s just a legislative shell game using taxpayers as the fall guys. Legislators need to remember that cities are driving the economic recovery and growth in our state. Undercutting that economic engine will only hurt all North Carolinians, both urban and rural residents.
Street resurfacings: In March, the city council approved a contract for just under $5 million for the summer street resurfacing program. This summer’s work will include major streets in the Southwest Ward including Griffith Road and Somerset Drive.
Tennis court resurfacing: We also approved a contract for about $223,000 for repairing and resurfacing 28 tennis courts at seven city parks, including Bolton and Miller parks in the Southwest Ward (and Carver, Central, Old Town, Parkland, and Shaffner parks elsewhere in the city).
Other park renovations and improvements: The council also continued to move forward on the more comprehensive parks and recreation improvements authorized by voters last fall. This included approving the design services contracts to plan and design repairs and improvements at Hanes Park and Miller Park. (There will be community review and input meetings held prior to the finalization of plans for the Miller Park work. When those meetings are scheduled for early this summer, I will help to publicize them.)
Council members reviewed the proposed locations for new water spray play areas at nine parks and pools around the city. A proposed location in the Southwest Ward is Little Creek Park.
National League of Cities: Along with several of my city council colleagues, I helped to represent Winston-Salem at the National League of Cities (NLC) conference in Washington during March. As usual, productive sessions connected with the conference included policy workshops, briefings from federal agency heads, and meetings with federal officials on issues of particular significance to Winston-Salem. Highlights of my work there included meetings on transportation program policies and funding, workshops in other areas including community policing improvements, and presentations on job development programs. I have posted a report with more details on my website here: www.danbesse.org/Issues/CurrentTopic2.aspx
Openings on city boards and commissions: Mayor Joines is seeking applicants for open positions on several city boards and commissions, including these: Citizens’ Police Review Board; Human Relations Commission; Public Assembly Facilities Commission; and Zoning Board of Adjustment. More information on the duties of each of these boards can be found here: http://www.cityofws.org/home-center/public-meetings/advisory-boards-and-commissions
Applications for openings are due in the mayor’s office no later than April 10. For the application form and further information, see here: http://www.cityofws.org/departments/mayor/boards-and-commissions
That’s my report for March. As always, you are welcome to email me at email@example.com with comments or questions. Thanks!