Wilmington's Proposed Budget Would Increase Property, Motor Vehicle Taxes

By Emma Dill, posted Jun 5, 2024
The Wilmington City Council considered a first reading of the city's 2024-2025 fiscal year budget on Tuesday. (Photo by Emma Dill)
On Tuesday night, Wilmington leaders approved a first reading of the city’s next fiscal year budget.

The budget helps articulate the city’s priorities in its next fiscal year, which begins July 1, helps guide the goals of city staff and projects the city’s annual revenues and expenditures. This year’s budget comes in at just under $300 million and includes a property tax increase of 2.75 cents per $100 of assessed value, an increase of nearly 7 percent.

The Wilmington City Council approved the budget's first reading in a narrow 4-3 vote on Tuesday. Council members Luke Waddell, Kevin Spears and David Joyner voting in dissent, raising concerns about the city's continued funding of the Safelight red light camera program, having unanswered questions about the budget and feeling the process had been rushed.

City staff and city council members have discussed and shaped the budget during a series of four work sessions held earlier this year. The council also hosted a public hearing on the recommended budget last month.

This year’s total budget is approximately $51 million less than last year’s budget, which included additional funds for the city’s $68 million purchase of the former Thermo Fisher Scientific campus on the north end of downtown Wilmington.

This budget focuses on investing in raises to encourage employee retention, investing in community safety measures and reducing bike and pedestrian collisions with vehicles by reviving a neighborhood traffic calming program. The budget also aims to invest in infrastructure maintenance and affordable housing throughout the city.

The proposed property tax rate is 42.25 cents per every $100 of assessed value – an increase of 2.75 cents or 7% over the current rate of 39.5 cents per every $100 of assessed value.

According to the recommended budget, the median-assessed value for a single-family home in Wilmington is approximately $273,800. That will mean an increase of roughly $75 in property taxes annually or $6 monthly for a home with that assessed value. The city’s proposed capital improvement program and growth in its general fund programs and services contributed to the tax increase.

The total assessed value of property in the city of Wilmington is just over $23 billion – a 2% increase compared to last year.

The budget also proposes increasing the motor vehicle tax by $20 to fund additional staff positions and traffic calming measures that will aim to reduce collisions between vehicles and pedestrians and cyclists. An increase from the current $5 to $25 is expected to generate approximately $1.8 million each year, according to Wilmington Budget Director Laura Mortell.

The budget introduces a market scale increase and merit program aimed at attracting and retaining employees along with a career ladder in some departments that will allow employees to advance.

The budget also provides funding for in-car cameras for the Wilmington Police Departments, funding for the ongoing expansion of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and nCino Sports Complex, sidewalk and roadway improvements and the introduction of a new residents academy.

The budget is set to go before the Wilmington City Council at its next meeting for a second reading and final vote. Per state statute, North Carolina municipalities must adopt a budget by July 1.
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