The King City Council has finished its initial review of a $11,586,443 budget for the next fiscal year, granting preliminary approval of City Manager Homer Dearmin’s proposed budget before holding a public hearing in May.
The proposed budget contains no tax increase, maintaining the rate at $0.422 per $100, but provides funding for a number of improvements in the city and adds several positions to a variety of departments.
The budget does include a nine percent increase in sewer charges, due to a projected nine percent increase in charges from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County City/County Utility Commission, but will not increase water rates this year.
Dearmin had asked the council to consider a three percent increase in water rates, citing a 2004 study which had recommended much larger increases to keep up with expenses and inflation, but the City Council voted not to approve that increase last week.
“We have not touched our water rate at all since 2012,” said Dearmin. “The cost of doing business has increased a little over 20 percent since that time. I am a water customer myself and do not want to see the increased rate, but I think we should have a small increase so we are not looking at having to do a major increase in a couple of years. Do we want our customers to have to absorb a seven to 10 percent increase down the road or do we want to say that is coming and make it as easy to deal with as we can by increasing it by small amounts over time?”
Revenues should increase
Dearmin told the Council that the city would see increased revenues during the next fiscal year due to new legislation that provides an additional sales tax stream for rural areas.
“The City of King is expected to receive an additional $200,000 due to sales tax reallocation, or an increase of approximately 24 percent,” said Dearmin. “We will not see the full impact of a new Walmart and other businesses until FY 2017-18; however, we will begin to see some additional sales tax revenue for the winter and spring of 2017. Those additional revenues are not included in this budget proposal—only the projected increases resulting from sales tax reallocation. Taking into account local economic trends, and considering the differences between Stokes County and other areas in the state, I have budgeted these revenues conservatively compared with state-wide projections. I would prefer to be pleasantly surprised by additional revenue than scrambling mid-year to adjust for budget shortfalls.”
Dearmin said he had left about $91,000 of the projected revenue increases out of the budget as a safety net for the city, and underlined that the budget did not include any of the additional projected revenues from the new Walmart.
Dearmin is also proposing to pull $89,700 from the city’s fund balance to provide one-time funding for the construction of a new parking lot across from City Hall.
Several major projects included in budget
Working with increased projected revenues, Dearmin has budgeted funds to increase street resurfacing, improve the downtown area, design a new gateway entrance to the city on South Main Street, improvements to the city’s two parks, improvements in the Senior Center, and the creation of a new city website.
“We are investing almost double what we have done in previous years for resurfacing streets, but we are behind in our street improvements,” said Dearmin, noting that the proposed budget included $253,428 to resurface Kingsway Dr., Logan Ct., Dixieland Ct., Shalimar Ct., Stamford Club Ct., and Ingram Drive.
He said the budget includes $80,000 for planned sidewalks and street lights in the downtown area and $10,000 for the design of a gateway, as initially proposed in the Stokes 2035 Comprehensive Plan, on South Main St.
“The Community Appearance Commission has expressed an interest in that,” said Dearmin. “No construction is budgeted, just the design work for the project.”
The city also plans to make improvements in restrooms and the paved path in Central Park, improvements to fields at Recreation Acres and to completely renovate and upgrade the kitchen and bathrooms at the Recreation Acres building.
There is also funding for painting and installation of chair rails in the Senior Center.
Dearmin said the city will also work on creating a new website that will be usable on a variety of devices.
“We have heard feedback from a wide range of people that our website is in need of a face lift or redesign,” said Dearmin. “Hopefully in this next year we will be able to move forward with a complete overhaul.”
Finally the budget includes funding for the purchase of a variety of new equipment and vehicles including two new patrol cars for the police department, a new generator for the fire department, and new trucks for the Streets Department and for the city’s water plant.
Council members also gave the fire department permission to start the process of purchasing a new fire truck, an expense that would not show up until future budgets.
Positions added for fire, police and water plant
The City Council has given initial approval for plans to add one position and reclassify another in the police department, add two new positions in the fire department and add one new position at the city’s water plant.
At the water plant, the new employee would be responsible for operating the belt filter press and managing permitted discharges.
“If the city gets to the point of operating its own wastewater plant then that person would have all of the needed certifications to jump in and run that facility,” said Dearmin. “Until that time that person would help the to run the water plant more efficiently.”
Dearmin proposed two options for the fire department based on uncertainty over whether or not Stokes and Forsyth counties choose to increase their respective fire taxes, one that provides no new employees if the tax is not increased and one that adds two employees if the proposed tax increase is approved.
“The four personnel per shift that we currently have on duty are our only guaranteed response to calls, and this has been difficult to maintain at times due to vacations, injuries, or other necessary absences, combined with dwindling volunteer support,” said Dearmin. “Call volume is increasing such that two to four calls at times come in simultaneously, and the addition of one firefighter per shift will continue to ensure timely and adequate response to calls within our City, our fire district, and calls for assistance with other departments with whom we have mutual aid agreements.”
Dearmin and Police Chief Paula May proposed a restructuring of leadership in the police department which would add a First Sergeant position and reclassify a vacant Lieutenant position to a Detective III position.
“The First Sergeant position, would answer to the Lieutenant, and supervise the four patrol sergeants,” said Dearmin. “This person would also patrol the city and be available to answer calls, but would be responsible for reviewing reports and ensuring that each patrol shift is adequately covered and ensuring that all patrol responsibilities are being met to the best of the Department’s ability. This position would also be responsible for managing the K-9 program, DARE program, and other crime prevention and public information functions.”
He said the newly reclassified Detective III position would supervise the the department’s investigations and evidence and property control.
“By adding one position and reclassifying another, our Police Department will be better enabled to meet the increasing demands of call response, crime prevention, public education, public relations, state and federal reporting requirements, and the overall expectations of our citizens, Council, and management,” said Dearmin.
The proposed budget also includes funding to cover a 4.2 percent increase in health insurance and a 2.3 cost of living increase for all city personnel.
A public hearing on the budget will be held on June 6 at 7 p.m. at the regularly scheduled City Council meeting at City Hall. Copies of the proposed budget are available for review at City Hall, the King Public Library and online.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.