Tag Archives: forsyth county

If You’re a Poor Kid in Forsyth County Then You’re Screwed

According to a recently released report Forsyth County, NC is the second worst county in the United States when it comes to income mobility for poor children. From the report in the New York Times:

Forsyth County is extremely bad for income mobility for children in poor families. It is among the worst counties in the U.S.

Location matters – enormously. If you’re poor and live in the Winston-Salem area, it’s better to be in Davie County than in Yadkin County or Forsyth County. Not only that, the younger you are when you move to Davie, the better you will do on average.

Every year a poor child spends in Davie County adds about $40 to his or her annual household income at age 26, compared with a childhood spent in the average American county. Over the course of a full childhood, which is up to age 20 for the purposes of this analysis, the difference adds up to about $800, or 3 percent, more in average income as a young adult…

It’s  among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 2nd out of 2,478 counties, better than almost no county in the nation.

Take a look at this graphic and you can see that there’s a huge disparity between the prospects for poor kids and rich kids in the county:

Source NYtimes.com

Source NYtimes.com

Forsyth’s neighbor to the east, Guilford County, isn’t much better off:

It’s among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 37th out of 2,478 counties, better than only about 1 percent of counties.

While it would be easy to say, “This should be a wake up call to the leaders of our community” I think that would be a cop out. This is the kind of thing that should concern us all because what do we think will eventually happen if we continue to allow a huge segment of our community to live in circumstances in which they perceive little chance of improving their lot in life? What do we think these young people will do when they lose hope?

So yeah, our elected leaders should view this as an early warning that they need to address these underlying causes of this disparity in opportunity, but this is bigger than them. All of us need to get engaged, through our schools, churches, civic groups, businesses and neighborhoods, in order to begin to make any progress in improving the prospects for our kids’ futures. The underlying issues are systemic – broken family structures, poor educational attainment, too many low wage jobs, etc. – and only a concerted effort by the entire community will be able to address them. If we don’t we will have much larger problems on our hands in years to come.

Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have made a great deal of progress in addressing the major economic challenges that were wrought by the declines of the local manufacturing industries, highlighted by the resurgence of downtown Winston-Salem, but now we need to make sure that the tide rises for everyone, not just those lucky enough to be born into well off families.

Back and Better Than Ever

Lucy’s been writing the last couple of years, just not on her (in?)famous blog, Life in Forsyth. Now she’s back and better than ever:

You see a boy riding a bicycle.

I see four years of finding parking at CompRehab. I see a special chair in the lunchroom because he collapsed on little, round stools. I see a child laying on his belly over a giant ball and being gently rolled to learn balance. I see therapeutic pencil grips and modified desks. I see the little room where casts were made of his feet. I see IEPs and testing modifications. I see stair exercises with someone behind him for safety. I see adaptive technology.

I see strength and ferocity and determination.

I see a boy at long last riding a bicycle.

Hopefully she’ll forgive me for sharing an entire post.

Next Year’s Property Revaluation in Forsyth is Going to Be a Doozy

From Yes!Weekly's blog post on the proposed bond referendum that would pay for streetcars in Winston-Salem among other things:

Budget challenges faced by the city include an anticipated 11-percent decrease to the property tax base with revaluation next year, the loss of federal stimulus dollars for police salaries, increased fuel costs, and plans for the city to kick in more for employee salaries and healthcare benefits.

For all of these reasons, City Manager Lee Garrity told the city council’s finance committee this evening that he is recommending that there be no bond referendum this year.

“The latest numbers for the first quarter of this calendar year are very concerning,” he said. “Sales of houses are up, as you may have read, but the price versus assessed value is down. A house in Forsyth County right now on average is selling for 11 percent below tax value. What that means for us going into the year after next with the budget is pretty significant.” (Emphasis mine).

The last time we went through a revaluation in Forsyth we were in the midst of the financial meltdown and at the time I though revaluations would not accurately reflect the true value of a property because there hadn't been time for the sales comps to have an impact on the system. Literally nothing was selling at the time so the comps were all pre-meltdown, and thus I felt they were artificially inflated. Those comps are now in the system and as the city manager pointed out this revaluation is going to show a significant drop in values, which means that tax rates will be raised significantly.

Here's the funny thing – the size of the check each property owner will be sending is likely to be close to the same amount they sent this year. That's because from the city/county's perspective they need a certain amount of revenue to make their budget (note I'm not saying whether or not the budget itself is a good thing), so when property values go up the city council or county commission will leave the rate flat or even reduce it so they can say they reduced taxes. Obviously they didn't really reduce the dollars, just the tax rate. Nice, huh? When property values go down they have to raise the tax rate, but in reality the actual tax dollars isn't much at all compared to the previous budget year. That's when you'll hear the council members and commissioners talking about how they were able to minimize the tax dollars each property owner had to send them, not the increase in the tax rate. Actually, if you read the Yes! Weekly post you'll see that they're already doing this and who can blame them?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think the best way to do this is having an annual revaluation. It's the fairest system because it more accurately reflects property values at any given time, prevents property owners from seeing 10-20% changes in their property values all at once, and makes budgeting for the city and county a little steadier. 

Forsyth County Commissioners’ Prayer Lawsuit Not Heard by Supreme Court

Today the US Supreme Court declined to take up the Forsyth County commissioners' prayer case:

The U.S. Supreme court this morning rejected Forsyth County's appeal of lower court rulings against the county's policy of allowing sectarian prayers at the opening of meetings of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

According to a live blog sponsored by Bloomberg Law, the court announced this morning that it had granted no new appeals to be heard, following a conference on Friday in which the Forsyth County case was discussed.

Citizens who objected to prayers mentioning Jesus filed a federal lawsuit against Forsyth County in March 2007.

You might recall that the county's own attorney recommended against fighting the lawsuit.  You might also recall that the county threw in with the Alliance Defense Fund to fight the lawsuit and follow the appeals process all the way to the Supreme Court, and that the agreement states that ADF will only cover it's own legal costs but not those of the plaintiffs. As a result some locals put together a group called the NC Partnership for Religious Liberty and pledged to cover up to $300,000 in legal expenses if the county commissioners voted to pursue the case.  

In the end the county commissioners did vote to pursue the case and over the last couple of years the case wound its way up the food chain to the US Supreme Court.  Now that it's all said and done I'm guessing we'll need to await an accounting from the various parties to see what the legal expenses will be and to find out if the $300,000 does indeed materialize from the NC Partnership for Religious Liberty.  Of course if the legal fees exceed $300,000 then we taxpayers of Forsyth County will be on the hook for the difference.

Here's a question: what could that $300,000 have done if instead of being used to fund an ill-advised lawsuit it had been donated to a local shelter or food pantry?

Winston-Salem’s Legacy 100,000 People Video

Just got a nice email from Kelly Bennett, Planner with the City-County Planning Board, about the work they're going to do to update the Legacy Plan.  Info can be found here, but I thought you'd like the video they've come up with to promote their work.  Fun note, at least for me: the last scene of the video was shot by the rooftop pool at the Nissen Building which is where I got my head shaved last summer for my office's food drive for Second Harvest.

 

Children’s Home and WSFCS School Collaboration

Given the people spearheading this effort, George Bryan and Ted Burcaw, I'd say the new school being opened at The Children's Home stands a really good chance of working.  I was able to spend a bit of time with George during my organization's project at TCH and I've met Ted, who is the brother of a good friend of mine, on a few occasions.  Let's just say that both guys bring some serious wattage to the endeavor and that, in addition to this being a good idea in general, will go a long way towards helping the school succeed. 

From the article:

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and The Children's Home are entering into a partnership that will enable students to benefit not only from extra attention from teachers and mental-health professionals but also from being on a 212-acre campus on Reynolda Road that has a functioning farm.

"We will be able to do things for kids that nobody else has been able to do," said Principal Ted Burcaw…

Officials don't know yet how many students will go to Kingswood when it opens for the 2010-11 school year. The school is intended to serve no more than 150 students. It will have seven teachers provided by the school system, and each class will also have a mental-health professional from staff at the Children's Home.

"These folks already have experience with the types of children we're talking about," Bryan said.

Outside of class, students will have the opportunity to work with the Children's Home's psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists. And, when appropriate, parents will be invited in for family counseling.

Update (July 13, 2010): A commenter asked how to get her elementary school-aged grandkids enrolled at the school. I passed the question along to Theo Helm at WSFCS and here's his reply:

Jon — The school will serve students in grades 6-12 next year, so it's too early for Ms. Hall to register her children. Generally speaking, it will serve students who have more involved mental health needs. Most students will either be referred there (through the IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, process that serves exceptional children or through a mental health referral) or assigned there (through the discipline process). It will also serve children who live at the group home at The Children's Home. Although there will be some parental choice, students will still generally need to be those who need more involved services.

Lake at Lissara

A front page article (subscription required) in this week's Triad Business Journal profiles the Lake at Lissara project in western Forsyth County, just outside the Lewisville Town Limits.  I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know much of anything about this project even though it's virtually a stone's throw from my house.  From the article:

Four Triad developers are teaming up to create a 112-home subdivision on 255 acres in western Forsyth County that will feature a large man-made lake and could reach $50 million in total investment, making it one the largest residential projects in the county since 2008…

By summer, builders and individuals can purchase lots ranging in size from one-fifth of an acre to 30 acres. Wilcox expects the homes to eventually sell for $300,000 to more than $1 million over the next seven years…

To create Lake at Lissara, the developers purchased six parcels of land for around $4 million from six different families, Wilcox said. Godfrey’s firm, Westview Development, previously owned 100 acres of the land slated for the subdivision.

Wilcox estimates total build-out costs, infrastructure and home construction to be $50 million. Once the land is plotted and recorded next month, Coldwell Banker Residential Mortgage will begin selling home lots ranging from $70,000 to about $300,000, Wilcox said.

The goal of the project is create a unique subdivision dotted with waterfront homes, sprawling estates, views of Pilot Mountain and a 64-foot-deep lake where homeowners can swim, sail and fish. The lake itself stretches some 3,000 feet end to end and has an estimated three miles of lake frontage.

From the standpoint of Lewisville I'm not sure this is a great development. There's a pretty decent impact on infrastructure since the quickest access to US-421 is through town, and that section of town already experiences a great deal of traffic volume. On the other hand, since this development is in Forsyth the town won't recognize any tax revenue from it, and considering these are going to be high end properties that would be a decent chunk of change.  Maybe the town will get a little indirect bump if the development helps raise the value of surrounding properties, but I don't think it will be enough to make up for the infrastructure hit.

Update: More from the Winston-Salem Journal