By Bruce Boyer
Kernersville is governed by six elected officials – Mayor Dawn Morgan, Mayor Pro Tem Jenny Fulton, aldermen Kenny Crews, Chris Thompson, Joe Pinnix Jr., and Bruce Boyer. We all serve two-year terms, and all elected official positions will be on the ballot in the November election. Kernersville municipal offices are non-partisan, which means decisions are made solely on what we think is best for the community’s citizens. I think I speak for all elected officials when I say, “It is an honor to serve the citizens of Kernersville.” Our job is made easier by exceptional town staff.
Early summer is a busy time of year for the Board of Aldermen. The town votes on its budget in late June for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The 376-page, 39.3-million-dollar budget was presented to us by Town Manager Curtis Swisher. Kernersville and Winston-Salem are the only two Forsyth County municipalities that provide the full range of services: Police, Fire, Public Services, Parks and Recreation, Community Development, Administration, Finance, Information Technology, and Human Services. Other municipalities rely on Forsyth County for their essential services. Because all our services are local, emergency service response times are exceptional. We have mutual agreements with neighboring entities to work together if additional police or fire assistance is needed for any situation. Trash, recycling, and yard waste services conducted by the town are the best in the Triad.
Conservative budgeting has helped Kernersville to fare well during the pandemic. In the upcoming fiscal year, we have reduced the tax rate from 57 cents per $100 property tax valuation to 55.9 cents. In this year of property tax re-valuation, the reduction of the tax rate lowers the basis for property tax paid by the citizens. Kernersville will likely have the lowest tax rate of any full-service municipality in the Triad region.
If the budget is approved as presented, Kernersville will have a new pumper fire truck and a major enhancement to Civitan Park. The biggest item in the budget will be the long-awaited recreation center at Ivey Redmon Park. The center will enhance public recreation and attract indoor sports events. We envision a significant market for volleyball and basketball tournaments, basketball camps, gymnastic meets, and dance competitions. Sports tourism will be a considerable boost to our local economy. The center will not duplicate aquatic and fitness center facilities already in the community. The center will also fulfill our need for a facility capable of hosting banquets and other significant community events.
At our June Board of Aldermen meeting, we accepted a new long-range vision for the town. Onward Kernersville has been in the works for almost two years, providing a vision for the town in Quality of Life, Transportation, Development, and Services. The process included substantial community input that guided four citizen task force groups in their recommendations. The plan identifies local and regional partners to help accomplish our goals. Onward Kernersville was jointly coordinated by the Town of Kernersville and Kernersville Chamber of Commerce, with the assistance of the Piedmont Triad Regional Council. Onward Kernersville replaces Kernersville 2020, drafted in 1997 and 1998.
Each year the town budget supports a few non-profit organizations that perform human service functions the town would otherwise need to provide. In addition, we allocate occupancy tax dollars to non-profit organizations to increase tourism.
An impactful decision we will make shortly is determining the best use of American Rescue Plan funds. This federal support is designed to help communities get back on their feet following the pandemic. The town’s operating budget does not include any American Rescue Plan dollars. We are awaiting guidance on the approved uses of these funds.
As members of the Kernersville Board of Aldermen, we are responsible for re-zoning decisions. We consider development proposals on their merit and understand the need to keep pace with changing housing and commercial trends. Kernersville is a “jobs center” in the Triad, with more jobs than working-age adults. Recent expansions at FedEx Ground, Amazon fulfillment center, health care, and other industries have further accelerated Kernersville job growth. Many people come to Kernersville to work, and often choose to move here and enjoy our high quality of life. Even during the pandemic, development in the community remained active, strengthening the tax base, adding new jobs, and diversifying our housing options. During the time the current board has been in office, the town has built a new fire station 42, Public Services building, created a historic village at the Kernersville Museum, opened Founder’s Park, and the handicap accessible Freedom Playground at 4th of July Park.
July will be a fun time in the community. Because of the pandemic, the celebration of Kernersville’s 250th birthday was delayed from March until the weekend of July 4th. As elected officials, we are proud of Kernersville’s rich history, and we look forward to being a wonderful community in the years to come.