The city tax rate will go up four cents on July 1, but Winston-Salem administrators are still calling it a budget that holds the line on taxes.

That’s because the 4-cent increase is in the budget to service the debt payments on $122 million in general obligation bonds that the voters approved last November.

“We balanced it without a tax increase for operations,” said Patrice Toney, the city’s budget and evaluation director, as she prepared to release the city’s proposed budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Toney presented City Manager Lee Garrity’s proposed budget on Thursday to the Finance Committee of the Winston-Salem City Council.

The budget calls for a 2019-20 tax rate of 63.74 cents for every $100 of taxable property, up from the current rate of 59.74 cents.

Here’s what that means for the owner of a piece of property valued at $150,000: The amount paid in city taxes would rise from $896.10 to $956.10, an increase of almost 7%.

Though the city budget totals $496.4 million, much of that is consumed by the City-County Utilities Division, which operates water and sewer services, as well as the landfills, in the city and county.

The general fund, which pays for most municipal services, is projected to total $211.9 million for 2019-20, a 3.1% increase over the current budget and driven by the city’s efforts to improve employee pay.

Merit pay increases are out this year for city workers, but city officials said they think employee pay rates are in pretty good shape because of a plan the city carried out to improve employee pay overall compared to what similar jobs are paying in other cities.

“I think we are close to the market in most cases,” Garrity said, noting that “90% of our employees got a raise in April of 2% or more” because of the market study.

Still, the city is addressing ongoing concerns about filling the ranks of sworn police officers and firefighters with a mid-year 2% increase effective in January 2020.

The city is also moving forward on its goal to eventually raise the city’s minimum pay rate to $15 per hour. The new minimum wage will be $13 per hour, up from $12.50 per hour. The change affects about 30 employees, mostly in custodial and similar positions.

Meanwhile, 10 vacant positions are being eliminated.

The volume charge for water and sewer service remains unchanged for the coming year, although there’s a $1.02 increase per month in the base rate.

The only other fee increase is a hike in the cost of yard cart stickers: They’re going from $60 to $65.

Also unchanged is the 9-cent tax rate for the business improvement district downtown.

The city also announced its schedule of meetings and hearings on the city budget:

  • The Finance Committee of the Winston-Salem City Council will hold budget workshops at 5 p.m. on May 30 and at 4 p.m. on June 6. The meetings are held in the council committee room on the second floor of City Hall.
  • The Finance Committee will hold its public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on May 30.
  • The mayor and the full City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. on June 17. The vote on the budget will likely occur during the same meeting. 336-727-7369 @wyoungWSJ

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