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Some Agencies Get Bump In County Economic Development Funds

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jun 2, 2020
More than $618,000 in strategic economic development initiatives are being earmarked in New Hanover County's budget for the next fiscal year.

The newly adopted 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which is a nearly $400 million balanced budget that will start July 1, was approved by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Monday, according to a news release.

In noncounty agency contributions, just over $548,400 in total funding next fiscal year will go to various economic development groups.

Another $70,000 is going to Charlotte-based National Gypsum as part of its promised economic incentive for re-establishing its shuttered manufacturing operations in Wilmington in 2018. The firm announced two years ago that it would make a $25 million investment and create 51 jobs.

The Arts Council of Wilmington/New Hanover County received a significant bump in appropriations this coming fiscal year from what was initially planned in the recommended budget.

The group was appropriated $45,000 in FY 2020-21, up from previous recommendation of $6,500, and an increase from the $10,000 in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Another arts and entertainment-related group saw an increase in county funding for the next budget year.
 
The Cucalorus Film Foundation was appropriated $25,000, up from the recommendation of $13,000 for the 2020-21 fiscal year. It's also an increase from the $20,000 it received in this fiscal year.

County officials said the changes made by commissioners were more reflective of the funding originally requested by the organizations for the next fiscal year. The Arts Council's original request was for $50,000 and Cucalorus requested $28,000.

Two agencies that have contracts with the county -- Wilmington Business Development (SBD) and the Wilmington Regional Film Commission -- received more funding in the approved budget for next fiscal year than from this year.

The county has earmarked $205,949 for Wilmington Business Development (WBD) next budget year, an increase from the $202,145 the economic development agency received this fiscal year.

For the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, New Hanover County appropriated $131,457, up from the $128,251 it received in this fiscal year’s budget.

"The increase in funding for these organizations is due to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment built into their contracts," county officials said in an email Tuesday.

And Wilmington Downtown Inc., which focuses on the economic growth and development of downtown Wilmington, also received an increase in county funding next fiscal year.

The downtown agency was appropriated at $70,000 in the county's budget, up from county staff's previous recommendation of $42,250 for the upcoming year, and up from its $65,000 in county funding this fiscal year. WDI originally requested from the county $75,000.

Other economic development appropriations are:
  • CFCOG Continuum of Care for Homelessness with $25,000 ($25,000 FY19)
  • Friends of Fort Fisher with $4,550 ($7,000 FY19)
  • Highway 17 Transportation Association In NC Inc. with $3,250 ($5,000 FY19)
  • Southeastern Economic Development Commission with $18,240 ($18,240 FY19)
  • The Southeastern Partnership Inc. with $20,000 ($20,000 FY19)
The adopted budget takes a “conservative fiscal approach” in the next budget year due to the uncertain economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release. It also maintains the current countywide tax rate of 55.5 cents per $100 of value.

The conservative approach to local government spending is taking place across the region, due to the COVID-19 pandemic's unprecedented impacts on the economy and sales tax collections for local governments across the state.

“This year’s budget maintains existing levels of service, invests in our employees who are charged with delivering these services, provides long‐term funding for voter‐approved debt, sustains strategic initiatives, and maintains the existing tax rate to ensure our citizens are not further financially strained following the economic disruptions of COVID‐19,” said county manager Chris Coudriet in the release.

“I appreciate the leadership of the Board of Commissioners to adopt a budget that is sustainable for the coming year," he said, "and is responsive to the economic volatility we are experiencing because of COVID-19.”
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