Forsyth County commissioners approved a $569.6 million budget on June 8 that continues to maintain county services in a tumultuous economy with no property tax rate increase.
The budget maintains the current tax rate of 67.78 cents per $100 of property value while maintaining and enhancing county services. Education remains the county’s largest service area in terms of expenditures, amounting to $182.2 million or 32% of the General Fund budget. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools receives 93 percent of those funds, or $169 million. In addition to an increase of 4.5 percent or $7.2 million over last year, a $1 million budget reserve was set aside for pay raises for classified school employees like bus drivers, food services, housekeeping, maintenance, aides and support staff and office personnel.
Public Safety is the county’s second largest service area by expenditures, with 17 percent of the budget or $97.9 million. The Sheriff’s Office receives 71 percent of those funds, or $69.6 million, and Emergency Services receives 27 percent of those funds, or $26 million.
New spending for the Sheriff’s Office in the adopted budget includes $116,693 to hire and equip a Special Victims Investigator who will investigate sexual assault cases and $116,693 to hire and equip a Cyber Crime Investigator. There’s an additional deputy for Rural Hall that will cost $162,054, though $121,774 of that will be covered by Rural Hall, along with forfeiture funds that will pay for equipment costs. There’s also $100,000 to expand the Sheriff’s Office use of drones, $39,400 for temporary staff to help with Concealed Carry Permits and fingerprinting, and $22,257 to convert an unsworn Animal Care Officer to a sworn deputy level position.
The budget adds new positions for Emergency Services, including $236,862 for two shift supervisors and an emergency response vehicle. There’s $103,717 for two Equipment Technicians. It also adds eight Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (AEMTs) and a new ambulance at a combined cost of $703,248; however, the services the EMTs provide are projected to bring in $90,350 in fees.
Social Services also has new spending in the budget, including $106,257 for a senior social worker program manager and $84,911 for a senior social worker for Child Protective Services, $74,392 for a new social worker in the adoption unit and $150,000 for an intercom paging system, all of which the county will receive a total of $160,446 in state and federal reimbursements for. There’s also $200,000 in the budget for additional staff to help with Medicaid expansion.
Public Health received two additional environmental health specialist positions that cost $151,526.
For county employees, the budget includes dollars to support up to 6 percent merit increases for employees and sets funds aside for pay-plan adjustments to keep employee salaries competitive. The budget also increases the employee tuition reimbursement from $400 a year to $1,000 a year.
The budget includes special appropriations for local non-profits, including Experiment in Self-Reliance, Children’s Law Center, HARRY Veterans Services, The Eye Bank of North Carolina, Crossnore Communities for Children, Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods, Neighborhood’s Hands, National Black Theatre Festival, Kaleideum, Arts Council, Old Salem and others. Special Appropriations also includes the county’s $368,050 contribution to TransAid transportation for residents with disabilities.
The budget also sets the tax rates for the volunteer fire departments serving rural areas and the county-wide fire tax for the supplemental staffing program. The rate for the supplemental staffing program remained .39 cents per $100 valuation.
The budget ordinance listed projects that could be paid for if Pay-Go money becomes available and will need to be approved by commissioners separately. These items included a handicap accessible Yadkin River Overlook at Tanglewood Park, a feasibility study for expanding Tanglewood’s campground and considering potential campgrounds at other park locations, Public Safety Center improvements, library branch upfits, Phase 2 for Belews Lake Park and several other projects.
The commissioners thanked the budget staff for their hard work and patience in preparing a budget during this time of economic uncertainties and challenges.
The preliminary budget is still available to view online on the Budget Department website, http://www.forsyth.cc/Budget/. The final, approved budget, which goes into effect on July 1.
The Forsyth County Budget and Management Department is responsible for the preparation, administration, and compilation of the annual budget for all County services. Budget & Management is a support department for the County Manager’s Office.
Specific activities include:
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