- Wilmington City Council approved a $182.6 million budget on May 18, which includes $5 million for community and economic development as well as other financial supports for residents and businesses.
- Council also approved a modified plan to increase business licensing fees, which reduces the “per unit” annual fee on rental properties to $75.
- Wilmington is seeking to increase filing fees on corporations and LLCs from $20 to $40. It has been approved by the Senate and is waiting for debate with the House.
- The city still plans to reduce parking tickets to $25, but it has dropped plans to create a $1 ticket tax for events.
Wilmington council members approved a $182.6 million city budget recently that includes $5 million from city reserves for community and economic development and other financial support for both residents and businesses alike.
The approved budget uses $5 million from the city’s Tax Stabilization Fund for neighborhood stabilization, the land bank, and an “economic strategic fund” to assist small and minority-owned businesses. The latter aims to lessen the blow of future business fee increases, which were also approved by the City Council last week.
The City Council approved the modified budget in a 9-3 vote. Council member Zanthia Oliver voted “present.”
ORIGINAL BUDGET:With deficit on horizon, Wilmington mayor proposes ticket tax, increased hotel tax
Council members who voted for the fee increases said they are a compromise in a long overdue review of city business fees, many of which haven’t changed in over 20 years, and are necessary to bring Wilmington costs more in line with other communities while preparing for more dire financial straits in the future.
“Leadership isn’t easy,” Council member Maria Cabrera said before voting to increase business licensing fees in an 8-5 vote on May 18. “We might look at a balanced budget now in 2024, but two years from now, it’s not going to be balanced when you look at the projections.”
What’s in Wilmington’s 2024 budget?
The approved budget expands on what Mayor Mike Purzycki proposed in March by adding funding for neighborhood stabilization and economic development.
Of the $5 million in reserve funds allocated:
- $3 million will go to the city’s neighborhood stabilization fund.
- $1 million will go to the Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank.
- $1 million will go to the city’s economic strategic fund, with $300,000 earmarked for the Minority Business Development Program.
The budget passed by the council keeps property taxes flat and levies a 5.7% increase in water and sewer rates. Stormwater fees will increase 6%.
How have planned business fee hikes changed?
While approved, increases to business fees will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2024.
The legislation reduced the proposed “per unit” fee levied annually on rental properties to $75, clarified the $5,000 cap applies only to rental complexes where all units are either low-income or senior housing and keeps fees on new businesses the same.
FOR SUBSCRIBERS:Why Wilmington landlords warn rents will climb if this city plan is passed
Council member Chris Johnson, who chairs the council’s Finance Committee, said the budget also includes funding to improve how Wilmington conducts regular business – streamlining a licensing and permitting process that is currently neither digital nor user-friendly.
“We heard from business owners that we need a one-stop shop; the budget includes a package to put the tech in place to improve things,” he said. “That’s what we are working on, so we hear the community, we hear our shop owners. When you look at our budget in total, it includes what we’ve been hearing from the community.”
What about other funding streams?
Wilmington still intends to reduce parking tickets to $25, Cabrera reminded people during the recent City Council meeting.
But it has dropped its pursuit to create a $1 ticket tax on events, city officials confirmed.
Right now, the Wilmington mayor said the city has sought approval from the state to increase the filing fees for limited liability companies and corporations from $20 to $40. It was approved by the Senate on May 18 and now goes to the House for discussion.
COUNCIL ETHICS:Wilmington council defeats bill to prevent hiring members’ relatives to legislative body
“We’re not asking for money from the state; we are simply asking for the state to permit an increase in the charges of the funding streams we already get,” Purzycki said.
As council members qualified their votes before approving the budget, many applauded the work done but added it won’t stop simply now that a budget is passed.
“I think we’ve gotten to a good point,” said Latisha Bracy, an at-large council member who was appointed to the seat in December. “Once the budget is passed, there is still a lot more work to do, and I look forward to working on it with you guys.”
Got a tip? Contact Amanda Fries at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @mandy_fries.