Forsyth County commissioners approved a $534.7 million budget that doesn’t raise the property tax rate while investing in services for the community.
The budget maintains the 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, with 33 percent, or $173.5 million, of the General Fund budget. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools receives 93 percent of those funds. Education bond projects, like building and renovating schools, also make up most of the General Fund budget devoted to debt service.
New spending in the budget devotes $218,848 to add 7 new full-time Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) positions. An additional ambulance could be funded if Pay-Go money is available once the current year is closed out.
Public Health will add a Healthy Forsyth Coordinator, who will work through a community coalition to address chronic health issues in the county and will cost $110,269, of which $100,000 will be covered by a grant. There’s also $145,988 for two public health educators for the Hispanic Liaison Project.
The adopted budget also includes funding for new Social Services positions: $51,822 for a Fiscal Technician and $109,762 for a division director that will oversee a separate Medicaid division at the agency, which currently has 113 employees involved in Medicaid applications, recertification and transportation. Social Services will also receive $100,000 for In-Home Aide Services to serve additional seniors.
The budget includes $226,272 for a new Marketing/Communications Office to educate and inform the public about Forsyth County Government and its services. A community survey conducted last year found that residents felt improving communication with the public should be a priority for the county.
Also included in the budget is $75,499 for a Senior Human Resources Consultant, $59,159 for a grounds maintenance technician, $80,717 for two library assistants, $51,509 for a library fiscal tech, and $45,584 for a tax assistant.
For county employees, the budget has a 1-5 percent merit increase and funds to address market rate adjustments based on a comprehensive study that is being completed by a third-party contractor, Lockton, LLC.
The budget includes special appropriations for local non-profits, including Experiment in Self-Reliance, Children’s Law Center, HARRY Veterans Services, Boston Thurmond Community Network, GIDE (Guiding Institute for Developmental Education), National Black Theatre Festival, Körner's Folly, Kaleideum, Arts Council, Old Salem and many others. Special appropriations also includes the county’s $499,930 contribution to TransAid transportation for residents with disabilities.
The budget also set the tax rates for the volunteer fire departments serving the rural areas and the County-wide fire tax for the supplement 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 separately approved by commissioners. These items included electric cars and charging stations for the county fleet, Tanglewood Park Wi-Fi improvements, security cameras at Recycling Convenience Centers, Detention Center capital maintenance, additional Multi-Purpose Agricultural Event Center project funding, and numerous other projects.
The commissioners thanked the budget staff for their hard work 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, will be available online by the end of the month.