Council approves first of two votes on budget, 2.5 cent tax increase

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Wilmington City Hall. File photo.
Wilmington City Hall. File photo.

With the first vote on the city’s $144 million budget approved Tuesday night, City Council will have one last budget workshop before the budget is finalized and voted on June 18.

Of the $144 million proposed, $95 million is for the city’s general fund, according to Wilmington City Manager Sterling Cheatham. The budget includes a 2.5 cent property tax increase.

The increase would bring the city tax rate to 48.5 cents per $100 of assessed property. For the average homeowner in Wilmington–with a home valued at $165,000–that would mean an increase of $3.51 per month or $42.13 per year.

“Top budget priorities this year include infrastructure funding and public safety,” Cheatham said. “The recommended budget includes a property tax increase that has 2 cents to help fund $55 million in transportation bond projects approved by voters last year, as well as another ½ cent to help offset cuts made by the N.C. General Assembly last year that eliminated $2.3 million in privilege license fees paid by businesses.”

In November, approximately 65 percent of voters within city limits approved the referendum, in which Wilmington will now assume $44 million in debt to help pay for the projects, which include area road improvements, crosswalks and walking trails.

Approved in 2014, and set to be enacted in July, is a repeal on municipalities’ ability to levy the tax, which is paid by businesses for the “privilege” of performing their services within a town.

Budget items highlighted by Cheatham include the continued funding for the city’s five-year infrastructure improvement plan, support for the 2014 transportation bond projects, eight additional Wilmington Police Department detectives for more timely case management, continued funding for youth violence prevention and police community engagement and maintaining a strong savings account.

There were also several fee changes proposed in the budget, including an average 10-percent increase in rates at the city’s golf courses, a 40-cent increase for stormwater fees, a $25 activation fee for new solid waste customers and “assorted change” for parking at the convention center parking deck downtown.

A budget work session is scheduled for June 8, with final adoption of the budget slated for June 18. Click here to read the complete recommended budget.