Triad Power Ranking: Lowest spending per capita

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  1. Greensboro — $1,873

The three cities (sorry, not including Thomasville here; population is our criteria) of the Triad all recently adopted annual budgets. All three maintained the same tax rate. Facing a public outcry from residents, Greensboro and Winston-Salem are gradually inching towards a living wage for employees. The News & Record reports that Greensboro has set a salary floor of $15 per hour for full-time employees, while roster workers receive a minimum of $11.50 per hour at the coliseum and $12.50 per hour in other departments. Meanwhile, according to the Journal, Winston-Salem City Council raised the minimum wage for city workers from $11.25 to $12.50 per hour, with a goal of $15 per hour by 2021. While offering more generous pay to its lowest paid workers, the city of Greensboro spends less per capita than Winston-Salem and High Point. Distributed among its 290,222 residents, Greensboro’s adopted budget of $543.5 million equates to $1,873 per person.

2. Winston-Salem — $2,167

With a budget of $530 million and 244,605 residents, the city of Winston-Salem spends slightly more per resident: $2,167. Attracting more people generally allows cities to spread the tax burden to more stakeholders. But of course, population is not the only measure of economic vitality. Ultimately, revenue levels, driven largely by property values and retail sales, determine cost efficiency. And it’s a good bet that Winston-Salem’s revenues are relatively healthy considering that the city maintains the lowest property tax rate — 59.74 cents per $100 of valuation, compared to 63.25 cents in Greensboro.

3. High Point — $3,566

As the smallest city in the region, High Point also carries the most expensive cost of government. With a $397.6 million budget for 111,513 residents, the city spends $3,566 per person. And believe that property owners pay for it. The property tax rate of 64.75 cents per capita is slightly higher than neighboring Greensboro. A caveat: Water rates, stormwater fees and other fees are also used by local governments to pay for services, and revenues from fees are sometimes used as a gimmick by local governments to keep tax rates artificially low even though residents still pay by other means. Sorry, that level of nuance is beyond the purview of this article.

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