Forsyth County commissioners approve budget

Published 12:08 am Thursday, June 15, 2023

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Forsyth County commissioners approved a $569.6 million budget on June 8 that doesn’t raise the property tax rate while investing in services for the community.   

The budget maintains the current 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, amounting to $182.2 million or 32 percent of the General Fund budget. 

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools receives 93 percent of those funds, or $169 million. In addition to an increase of 4.5 percent or $7.2 million over last year, a $1 million budget reserve was set aside for pay raises for classified school employees like bus drivers, food services, housekeeping, maintenance, aides and support staff and office personnel.   

Public safety is the county’s second-largest service area by expenditures, with 17 percent of the budget or $97.9 million. The Sheriff’s Office receives 71 percent of those funds, or $69.6 million, and Emergency Services receives 27 percent, or $26 million.    

New spending for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office in the adopted budget includes $116,693 to hire and equip a special victims investigator to investigate sexual assault cases and $116,693 to hire and equip a cyber crime investigator. An additional deputy for Rural Hall will cost $162,054, though $121,774 of that will be covered by Rural Hall, along with forfeiture funds that will pay for equipment costs. There’s also $100,000 to expand the Sheriff’s Office’s use of drones, $39,400 for temporary staff to help with Concealed Carry Permits and fingerprinting, and $22,257 to convert an unsworn animal care officer to a sworn deputy-level position. 

The budget adds new positions for emergency services, including $236,862 for two shift supervisors and an emergency response vehicle. There’s $103,717 for two equipment technicians. The budget also adds eight advanced emergency medical technicians (AEMTs) and a new ambulance at a combined cost of $703,248; however, the services the EMTs provide are projected to bring in $90,350 in fees. 

Social Services also has new spending in the budget, including $106,257 for a senior social worker program manager and $84,911 for a senior social worker for Child Protective Services, $74,392 for a new social worker in the adoption unit and $150,000 for an intercom paging system, all of which the county will receive a total of $160,446 in state and federal reimbursements for. There’s also $200,000 in the budget for additional staff to help with Medicaid expansion.  

Public Health received two additional environmental health specialist positions that cost $151,526. 

For county employees, the budget includes dollars to support up to 6 percent merit increases for employees and sets funds aside for pay-plan adjustments to keep employee salaries competitive. The budget also increases the employee tuition reimbursement from $400 to $1,000 annually. 

 The budget includes special appropriations for local non-profits, including Experiment in Self-Reliance, Children’s Law Center, HARRY Veterans Services, The Eye Bank of North Carolina, Crossnore Communities for Children, Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods, Neighborhood’s Hands, National Black Theatre Festival, Kaleideum, Arts Council, Old Salem and others. Special Appropriations also include the county’s $368,050 contribution to TransAid transportation for residents with disabilities. 

The budget also sets the tax rates for the volunteer fire departments serving rural areas and the county-wide fire tax for the supplemental staffing program. The rate for the supplemental staffing program remained at $0.39 per $100 valuation.  

 The budget ordinance listed projects that could be paid for if Pay-Go money becomes available and must be approved by commissioners separately. These items included a handicap-accessible Yadkin River Overlook at Tanglewood Park, a feasibility study for expanding Tanglewood’s campground and considering potential campgrounds at other park locations, Public Safety Center improvements, library branch upfits, Phase 2 for Belews Lake Park and several other projects. 

 The preliminary budget is still available online on the Budget Department website, The final, approved budget, which goes into effect on July 1, will be available online by the end of the month.