Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts

Watts

A proposed 2-cent hike in Forsyth County’s property-tax rate is the best mechanism to pay for the new courthouse, County Manager Dudley Watts says.

The increase would raise the county property-tax rate to 74.35 cents for every $100 of property valuation. Watts has recommended a $454.2 million budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, representing an increase of $27.9 million, or 6.5 percent, over the current budget.

Watts and other county officials and staff gave a detailed presentation of the proposed budget on Thursday.

Property taxes make up about 61 percent of the total general-fund revenue while sales taxes account for 15.1 percent.

Watts expects sales taxes to increase $2.3 million, or 3.5 percent, in fiscal 2019-2020, compared with the current budget year.

“We lag two months behind in sales taxes….We don’t know what we actually collect until September when we get the June 30 sales-tax numbers in,” Watts said. “You’re always budgeting kind of an unknown out there.”

In terms of expenditures, debt service, for example, will rise 14.3 percent to $71.6 million in 2019-2020 compared with the current fiscal year; personal services such as health insurance and employee performance increases will rise 4.9 percent to $153.2 million.

The county uses a school-funding formula to determine the county manager’s recommended level. For the coming budget, Watts has recommended $130.2 million for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. The school system requested $134.3 million along with an additional $40.2 million for teacher supplements, classified staff and capital projects.

The heads of several agencies and departments spoke Thursday, including the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, as well as the county’s public health, social services, human resources, and housing & community development departments.

The proposed budget calls for the sheriff’s office, which has the second biggest impact on the budget behind the school system, to receive $54.4 million as well as money for several new requests.

But Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough is hoping to get about $58 million.

He brought handouts for the commissioners that included information about the new items he is requesting, including matching Winston-Salem’s salary ranges for sworn law enforcement, $134,300; matching Winston-Salem’s salary ranges for telecommunicators, $26,320; the pre-hiring of school resource officers for the 2020-2021 school year, $254,513.

“We feel that competitive pay is obvious in order to compete,” Kimbrough said.

He said that Forsyth County is last when it comes to competitive pay for telecommunicators compared with what other cities and counties such as Winston-Salem, and Pitt and Stokes counties pay their telecommunicators.

In regards to county employee impacts, Shontell Robinson, the county’s human resources director, said that based on a Piedmont Triad Regional Council annual compensation/classification study the recommended county salary adjustments this year would amount to $956,617 and would go into effect Oct. 1 rather than July 1 as the county has done in the past.

If the commissioners adopt the budget, jobs that would receive increases include maintenance, animal care officer, EMT, paramedic, custodian, telecommunicator, office assistant and fire engineer.

For sheriff’s office salaries, Robinson said that Watts is proposing adjusting salaries for deputy sheriffs to $40,456.79, which is half way to what the City of Winston-Salem is paying. A detention officer’s pay would go to $39,243.09. The adjustments would start Oct. 1.

Robinson is requesting an additional 2.5 percent 401K for county employees at an estimated cost of $2.8 million. She is recommending an onsite Wellness Clinic as a benefit for county employees. The clinic would be paid for from internal service fund reserve money.

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fdaniel@wsjournal.com 336-727-7366 @fdanielWSJ

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