The Winston-Salem City Council passed its more than $500 million budget for Fiscal Year 2014-2015 at its meeting Monday night after several weeks of discussion. Here are some of the highlights.
- A one-cent property tax increase to account for the loss of software tax revenue next year in addition to tax increases of 4.5 and 6.7 percent for water and sewer services respectively.
- Increases in merit pay of city of employees at rates between 1.5 and 3 percent based on performance ratings. The council also set the minimum wage at $10.10 per hour.
- The elimination of the West End Trolley, which is projected to save $116,000. That money will be transferred into the public transit fund.
- The purchase of five new boom trucks for brush collection at a cost of $145,000.
Many of the adjustments in the budget from previous years come in response to changes made by the General Assembly to North Carolina’s tax structure last year. House Bill 998 eliminated the software tax and restricted business privilege license taxes to businesses with a physical location. Council member Robert Clark said given the circumstances he thinks changes to this year’s budget are relatively minor.
“We’re pretty much doing the same things we do year to year with a few exceptions,” he said.
The merit pay adjustments come in response to a study conducted by the city of Winston-Salem which compared its pay structure to that of similar-sized cities in the state.
“I don’t believe the city of Winston Salem can take a stand on poverty if our employees aren’t being page minimum wage,” said council member Derwin Montgomery. He said he wants to see more citizen engagement and hopes the city can further its dialogue with state representatives.
Council member Jeff MacIntosh said he thinks the budget is sustainable despite the loss of some revenues.
“If we can avoid some weather shots, I don’t think we’re going to take it on the chin,” he said, while emphasizing that the political climate in Raleigh could create further challenges for the city in 2015 and that economic development will be crucial to the city’s ability to raise revenue going forward.
“If we’re going to have more money to work with, it’s got to come from the business sector. It can’t come from hardworking people.”