Wilmington moves forward on Thermo Fisher purchase, FY23-24 budget
With approval from the state, the city can officially include the $70 million purchase of the former Thermo Fisher building in its budget.
At the June 7 meeting, Wilmington City Council held the first of two votes on its $351 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The vote was nearly unanimous on all items, although Councilman Luke Waddell voted against a raise for council — which was presented as a way to professionalize the role of city leaders.
The raise is the continuation of last year's fight, where Waddell also pushed back against a 25% increase for council members. That raise brought council members' annual pay from $14,490 to $18,113 and the mayor from $19,035 to $23,794.
"It's a rehash from last year," Waddell said of his opposition, "We've 25% increases in the last two budget cycles, so over a 50% increase in the stipend for the last two years, and now we have slightly over a 10% increase."
He added, "I don't think the council should have any further increase, with the exception of the mayor potentially who has a more full-time position."
Waddell got pushback from fellow councilmembers, specifically Kevin Spears.
"We're all on the clock," he said, pointing out that constituents still see him as "Councilman Spears" when he's off the clock.
"It is classified as part-time but I pretty much say we work a full-time schedule as it relates, and we schedule everything else around it," Spears said.
The budget will receive a second reading on June 20 and will take effect July 1. It includes $2 million for affordable housing programs, $16 million for streets and sidewalks, and $2 million to support local nonprofits and public events.
The property tax rate for this year remains unchanged at 39.5 cents per $100 dollars of valuation. There are some fee increases elsewhere in the budget, however, like a $2 increase in greens fees for the municipal golf course, a 1% increase for stormwater service, and an average increase of $2.18 per month for residential recycling and trash service.
After receiving state approval earlier in the day, Council also voted unanimously to move forward on buying the Thermo Fisher building on the north end of downtown for $70 million. That won’t raise taxes, however, as the city is using limited obligation bonds to cover the purchase. If the purchase clears the city’s due diligence process, officials hope to close the deal in mid-July.