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A quick look at Wilmington's budget, set to be formally approved next week

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Next week, at its Tuesday night meeting, Wilmington's City Council will officially approve the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget. WHQR has an overview of what's changing compared to last year — and why.

It's no secret that, in general, the cost of just about everything is going up and that includes the cost of funding government. This is due to a number of reasons including population increase, nationwide inflation, and other factors — and it's reflected in the 2023 budget for Wilmington.

Taxes

Originally, the city was planning on raising the current property tax rate by 3.7%, which is an adjustment of 1.42 cents. That doesn’t sound like much, and in reality, it isn’t the biggest hike. If you own a house estimated at around $260,000, your taxes are going up a little over $3 a month, and $38 annually. Earlier this month, however, other options were brought forward to decrease that to 1.17 cents by adjusting the appropriated fund balance, adding $500,000.

Council member Luke Waddell was in favor of this option, saying while he doesn’t like tax increases at all, why not make the increase less if we can. Which is fair.

Kevin Spears responded by saying there are a lot of people in the community that can afford to “go with the flow” of taxes. If people have problems with the taxes increasing in spite of everything the city wants to accomplish, then those people need to be identified, he said.

One thing to note is that the taxes are based on the county tax appraisal of a property, not the selling price.

Jobs

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a tectonic shift in the workforce. When people worked from home during the extreme stages of lockdown, people began to reassess their priorities and values when it came to work. People are searching for more flexibility in their careers after seeing that it can work in many cases. Technology has also shown that some jobs can be done without being in an office whatsoever.

The city has reviewed and updated the alternative work schedule policy requiring Department Director approval. For the upcoming year, they’re planning to take a look at job flexibility for city positions and formulate a more permanent schedule going forward.

Parking

The first 90 minutes at the city-owned Market St. and Second St. parking decks are now $1.50 and monthly fees are going up to $125 from $60. Parking meters have gone up from $1.50 an hour to $2.00 an hour.

A closer look shows you’re even going to be paying a few cents to dollars more for things like recycling, trash, and renting tennis courts.

City official pay increases, government 'strength'

The Mayor and City Council pay is going up 10% if the budget is adopted — that’s actually the second of a three-year plan to raise them 25%, up to the statewide benchmarks. City Manager compensation is up by 15%.

Then there's what's called the "strength" of our government. The big takeaway: the scope and size is, overall, increasing.

According to the city's budget, the strength of the government is growing by 30.67. That’s a way of saying 31 new full-time positions are being proposed with a majority of those going to the fire department, which is getting 15 new positions out of that total of 31. Police are getting nine.

So, a majority of those full-time positions being added are for public safety, which takes up 47% of the total FY 2023 budget.

Incentives, affordable housing

It’s not all about internal spending for the city. The city is aiming to invest $264,000 in economic incentives, which are agreements with companies that ask them to create jobs in the region and contribute to the local economy.

With the affordable housing crisis worse than ever, the city has been trying to direct more funding to address the problem. Affordable housing is getting $2.15 million; the city is also giving roughly $1.5 million to the Wilmington Housing Authority to help them deal with the mold displacement emergency.