City budget includes raises, tax increase and new police district

City budget includes raises, tax increase and new police district
June 09
10:30 2016



A 2-cent tax increase, raises for city employees and a new central police district are all included in the City of Winston-Salem’s proposed budget.

A public hearing on the budget will be held today, June 9, at 7 p.m. at the City Hall committee room. City Council will vote on it on June 20.

Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe presented the $442 million 2016-2017 budget to the City Council during a meeting on Tuesday, June 7. The 2-cent tax increase would make the city tax rate 58.5 cents per$100 of value.

The budget will raise the minimum wage from $10.10 to $10.40. Council Members Derwin Montgomery and Dan Besse said that the city should look into ways to eventually get it closer to a livable wage.

“It’s an important topic we’re making strides to address,” said Besse.

Council Member Molly Leight asked about what it would take to eventually get the minimum wage to $15, which she was told would cost $5.4 million. That figure did not include adjustments on the wages of those making more than that, which would be needed.

The budget continues the city’s plan to raise police officer and firefighter salaries closer to market levels, which began with a 2 percent supplemental raise in January and 7.5 percent increase in starting salaries. The budget continues that, with another 2 percent supplemental  raise next January and additional raises for police officers with five to 15 years of service to address attrition issues.

All other employees receive a 3 percent raise on top of being eligible for merit-pay raises of 1.5 percent to 3 percent. The city will also be initiating a 401(k) supplemental retirement plan with a 2 percent contribution by the city.

Finance Chair Robert Clark said they might need to give some positions more of a salary increase. Light equipment opera-tor pay, for instance, is 10 percent below market and the position has a 45 percent voluntary turnover rate. Building Inspectors are 30 percent below market with 25 percent turnover rate, and construction inspectors are 28 percent below market rate with an 18 percent turnover.

“Three percent may not cut it,” said Clark about some positions.

Of the 40 new positions in the budget is $310,000 for five positions that will be part of a new fourth police district in the central part of the city. The new district will include downtown and areas around it like UNC School of the Arts and Winston-Salem State University.

This will let police better respond to the growing population in the central part of the city and coordinate events in that area.

Other public safety additions include five positions, paid for by the county, that will be part of the combined city-county forensic services unit.  The budget also allocates $77,000 for the first of three fire safety inspectors to be hired over the next three years that will eliminate the need for firefighters to do fire code inspections.

Also in the budget:

*$298,000 for the new Winston-Salem Transit Authority bus routes that go into needed for the new routes for the first half of 2017.

*$378,000 for nine new Trans-AID positions to address increased demand for the WSTA handicap transportation service.

*$196,000 for a new traffic signal system.

*$992,000 for major maintenance needs at Parks and Recreation facilities. This includes basketball court resurfacing, picnic shelter renovations, recreation center renewal and work on soccer field irrigation systems.

*$391,000  for an additional engineer, drainage maintenance crew and associated vehicles and equipment for the Stormwater Management Program. The program is expected to receive 1,350 drainage calls this year, up almost 47 percent from previous years. It’s also dealing with other environmental issues like groundwater contamination around the former Hanes Lowrance middles schools and methane at Bowman Gray Stadium.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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