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Commissioners to consider restoring budget cuts with better than expected tax revenue

Forsyth County Commissioners will consider restoring budget cuts made in this year’s FY21 budget, due to better-than-expected sales tax revenue.
The commissioners plan to consider several budget items on Dec. 17. These include restoring cuts made in the budget and whether to fund Alternate Service Level requests for additional spending. They’ll also consider funding various pay-go projects using funding that is available based on FY20 year-end financial results.

These items were first briefed during a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 7, and again during a 2 p.m. briefing on Thursday, Dec. 10. Meetings can be viewed live on WSTV 13 and can also be viewed on the county’s Facebook page. Past meetings can be viewed at https://forsyth.cc/Commissioners/meeting_agendas.aspx.

The $447 million FY21 budget that the commissioners passed in June reflected a reduction in spending of 2.5 percent, or $11 million. This was because staff estimated a loss of 15%, or $10 million, in sales tax revenue. The commissioners decided to ratify a balanced continuation budget that maintained current service levels with a commitment to review additional funding requests later in the year, once the county had a clearer understanding of the overall impact on revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact was far less than expected. The actual year-end FY20 sales tax revenue was $67.9 million, which was only a 1.1% reduction from the pre-COVID-19 estimate. Sales tax data for this current fiscal year is also promising, showing an increase in first quarter tax revenue over last year. The revenue generated by the ¼-cent sales tax to fund local teacher supplements is also trending ahead of the revised $11 million it was estimated to generate.

The better-than-expected sales tax revenue means there is $7.8 million to be added to the current FY21 budget. The commissioners will consider $5 million in staff recommended budget restorations. The recommendations also include restoring reductions in longevity and performance pay, along with training and conference funding that will be held in reserve until departments demonstrate a need for the additional funds.

Commissioners will consider appropriating or reserving the remaining $2.8 million in recurring funds. They could allocate these for Alternate Service Level requests for new or additional spending from departments, as well as non-profits requesting special appropriations. There are a total of 83 requests with a net county dollar cost of approximately $34.7 million.

Commissioners will also vote on allocating $18 million in pay-go funds. Staff recommends spending $6.2 million on existing projects currently in progress such as replacing the county’s payroll system, upgrading the radio system used by first responders, and renovations at Tanglewood Clubhouse. Other management recommendations include spending $7.27 million on the urgent projects of COVID-19 response, Emergency Medical Services defibrillator replacement, EMS vehicles, phase one of Belews Lake Park development, capital projects related to merged or co-located operations with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System, and up-fitting the Public Safety Center so that both city and county 911 services can co-locate there. There’s also $4.67 million recommended for economic development reserve, Public Health facility renovations and debt reduction.