Forsyth County Commission adopts budget for 2014

Richard Linville (left) Bill Whiteheart
The Forsyth County Commission adopted an annual budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 this morning in a party-line vote that uses $1.4 million from economic development funds recovered after the closure of Dell to offset cuts to public schools.

Known as "Plan C," the adopted budget modifies an earlier proposal by members of the board's conservative Republican majority that would have implemented deeper spending cuts. The adopted budget reduced the tax rate by 2.5 cents from an earlier budget recommended by City Manager Dudley Watts. The tax-rate reduction stripped $5.9 million out of expenditures, including $3.3 million for public schools, $2 million in prior-year encumbrances, $718,701 for departmental reductions at the manager's discretion and $500,000 for funds available for salary adjustments.

Watts said his recommended budget had allocated an additional $1.9 million for public schools so that the $1.4 million transfer from the Dell fund will result in no net change in funding to the schools.

"It is less than what we had hoped for with the original revenue-neutral budget," Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools spokesman Theo Helm said. "It's $2.3 million less than the revenue-neutral budget. It does at least keep funding intact from last year. Now that we know that piece, we need to see what the state budget is. There are certainly things that we can do on our end with the fund balance and other cuts."

The total general fund budget for next year will be $399.8 million, an increase of 1.5 percent from the previous year.
The board used a revenue-neutral tax rate as its starting point for the budget. The adjustment was required because the county lost roughly $31.5 billion to $35.5 billion in real estate valuation due to the 2013 property revaluation. As a result, the county must tax property owners at a higher rate to bring in the same amount of revenue.

To maintain the same level of revenue the county would need to increase taxation from the current rate 67.4 cents per $100 of valuation to a new level of 74.2 cents per $100 of valuation. The 2.5-cent reduction negotiated by the commissioners brings the new tax rate to 71.7 cents per $100 of valuation. 

A family that owns a house valued at $150,000 — assuming that it held its value over the past four years — will find themselves paying an additional $65 on their tax bill in 2014, an increase from $1,011 to $1,076.

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