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Budget hearing draws few voices

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A limited number of Wilmington residents and business owners voiced ideas about the city’s recommended fiscal year 2014-15 budget during Wilmington City Council’s Tuesday, May 20, meeting.

Clark Hipp, Wilmington Downtown Inc. chairman, was present during the public hearing for the recommended budget to thank council for its continued support of WDI, which focuses on the economic development and marketing of downtown Wilmington. Hipp also asked council to favorably consider WDI’s request for supplemental funding for an additional part-time employee who would research the benefits of establishing a municipal service district downtown.

The proposal to create a downtown municipal service district, which would create a new tax district to fund downtown improvements, arose from a recommendation by the University of North Carolina School of Government Development Finance Initiative as part of its proposal for the redevelopment of the Water Street parking deck.

The city of Wilmington’s fiscal year 2014-15 budget totals $144.7 million and includes a 4 percent increase in salary expenditures for city employee raises. City staff is also proposing a 1 percent property tax increase to help fund the salary increase and other budgetary increases. On a home valued at $200,000, a 1 cent increase would result in an extra $1.67 per month in property taxes.

Another property tax increase could be on the horizon for city residents if voters pass a $52 million transportation bond referendum in the November 2014 election. The bond includes $33 million in roadway improvements, $17 million in bike and pedestrian improvements and $2 million for public transportation improvements.

To pay for the bond, the city is proposing a 2 cent property tax increase at the beginning of fiscal year 2016 on July 1, 2016.

The bond referendum question will include language about the construction of roadways, sidewalks and multiuse trails along with the proposed 2 cent tax increase.

During city council’s July 8 meeting, there will be a public hearing on the proposed bond referendum with the vote coming Nov. 4.

Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Mike Kozlosky said the projects included in the plan came from the transportation needs identified by city staff and residents. A lack of immediately available funding in the city’s capital improvement plan to pay for those desired transportation projects spurred the need for the bond order, Kozlosky said.

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