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City Officials Scratch Proposed Tax Increase Tied To Potential Thermo Fisher Building Purchase

By Staff Reports, posted Apr 28, 2023
City officials have changed a plan to include a proposed 1.5-cent tax increase that would help the city buy the former PPD headquarters building and campus. (File photo)
In an email Friday, city of Wilmington officials said the recommended budget for the next fiscal year will not include a 1.5-cent tax increase.

The city's staff had anticipated proposing the increase to help fund the $70 million purchase of the northern downtown office complex owned by Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. at 929 N. Front St.

"The manager’s proposed budget would now fund those financing needs within the existing tax rate of 39.5 cents," the email stated.

The change comes after officials discussed the subject at the Wilmington City Council's meeting April 18, during which councilmen Kevin Spears and Luke Waddell each brought up the need for further discussion about the potential purchase. The transaction would include the 12-story PPD headquarters building, parking deck and 12.5 acres.

The city would consolidate its offices, now scattered across multiple downtown buildings, in a portion of the building and offset the cost of the campus by selling the vacated city properties and leasing part of the space to other tenants.

City Manager Tony Caudle said in Friday's email, “We anticipate being able to propose a budget with no tax increase while still being able to accomplish many of the goals set by the Council, including the acquisition of the northern campus.”

In a statement Friday afternoon, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo shared his take on the announcement.

Saffo said, “Over the last several years, council has positioned the city to be financially strong, nimble, and responsive to the standard of service our residents want and have come to expect. This hasn’t been easy. We’ve weathered hurricanes, a pandemic, and still built up significant rainy-day savings while passing balanced budgets and achieving a AAA bond rating.

"This allows us to respond to emergencies and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. I applaud our city manager and his staff for their diligent work in preparing a budget that allows us to meet the city government’s long-term space needs in a financially responsible way. The prospect of acquiring the northern downtown campus without raising the tax rate is a testimony to this city’s strong financial position.”

The proposed budget will be presented to the Wilmington City Council at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The agenda also includes:
  • An agreement with Pivot Parking of up to $2.476 million to manage the city's parking program “Park Wilmington,” which oversees more than 3,200 on- and off-street parking spaces. Staff is recommending an initial one-year contract, with two, two-year extension terms, at the discretion of the city manager, for up to five years. "If approved, the contract will take effect on July 1, 2023. The award of this contract is recommended by the Downtown Parking Advisory Committee," the city's agenda email stated.
  • A public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2024 Annual Action Plan for CDBG & HOME Funds. These funds are used to help provide affordable housing opportunities in the city.  
  • A public hearing on a voluntary annexation of 1.87 acres and accompanying resolutions that, if approved, would allocate up to $1 million in gap financing from HUD for a proposed development that would include 56 units of affordable housing for senior households.
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