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County passes budget tied to voter-approved sales tax

County passes budget tied to voter-approved sales tax
June 14
05:00 2018

The county commissioners unanimously passed a $426.3 million budget with no property tax increase last week with plans to put a quarter-cent county sales tax on the ballot in November.

The commissioners will formally vote to place the new sales tax on the ballot at a later meeting. It’s expected to pass since only Commissioners Everette Witherspoon and Fleming El-Amin have said they didn’t support the new tax, which would apply to purchases in Forsyth County, except gas and groceries.

The money raised by the tax would go to pay for the debt from building the new courthouse. This is in lieu of a 2.3 cent property tax increase that was originally proposed in the budget. If voters do not pass the sales tax, then county property tax would need to go up 3.1 cent in the next budget to pay for courthouse debt. County property tax is currently 72.35 cents per $100 of property value.

The budget included the creation of a new communications office that will have one staff member and funds to absorb the administrative cost of Safe on Seven Domestic Violence Center currently paid for by Family Services. It also included six new firefighters for the 109/209 fire units that support the county’s volunteer fire departments, which will be paid for with a .036-cent tax on the county’s fire districts.

Commissioner Everette Witherspoon said he was pleased with the four additional social work positions the budget added for the Department of Social Services. He was also pleased Nurse-Family Partnership, which works with first-time mothers, got an additional nurse and support staff.

“When you’re talking about our most vulnerable citizens, you’re talking about Public Health, you’re talking about DSS. I think the budget did good by them,” he said.

Witherspoon said his one regret is that SHARE Co-operative, which is trying to open a co-op grocery store in a food desert on Peters Creek Parkway, only got $5,000. The nonprofit requested $200,000.

Commissioner Fleming El-Amin said he was pleased with the support that the budget gave to local organizations like $10,000 for the Children’s Law Center, $10,000 to help Carter G. Woodson School start an urban garden and the behavior health funding the Urban League received for its mental health outreach. El-Amin said there’ll be additional opportunities to help the community with “pay go” funds, which come from revenue the county has after expenditures.

“Hopefully, going forward, we’ll have a lot of pay go funds to address some concerns in the community,” said El-Amin.

Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt, who voiced concerns about the size of the budget, said she liked things in it, like the $275,000 for a new ambulance, which will be paid for from the county’s fund balance and will be voted on separately later this month.

“Everybody gets a little bit of what they want,” said Whisenhunt about the budget process.

County Commissioner Chair Dave Plyler said it was a good budget, even if work remained to be done on things like the shortfall in the county’s funding for the new Kaleideum museum.

“[The budget] covers all the bases. The county should be healthy and safe,” said Plyler.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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