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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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City Council discusses 2014-15 budget

After their agenda briefing on April 14, the Wilmington City Council discussed development of the 2014-15 budget, including employee compensation.
 

Budget highlights

  • The city’s property tax rate is lowest among all of NC’s larger cities, except Cary and Raleigh, which are much more affluent and have higher property tax values and bigger tax bases
     
  • More than half of all city employees work in the police and fire departments (544 out of 993) 
     
  • Public safety expenses total almost half of the city’s $88 million budget; WPD’s budget is $26 million and WFD’s is $16 million for a total of $42 million
     
  • The total amount the city collects in property taxes each year is almost equal to the total amount spent on public safety
     
  • For the 2014-15 budget, the city is considering options to continue funding for a 3-5 year plan to increase employee pay to make salaries more competitive
     
  • To fund all proposed increases for employee compensation, as well as public safety enhancements approved over the last several months and increases already approved (WAVE, agency funding, economic incentives) results in a shortfall of $2.3 million
     
  • Options discussed to make up this shortfall:
    Service reductions, property tax increase, using savings (called Fund Balance), or a combination of these
     
  • Most of the service reductions discussed would result in the elimination of some positions, although it is expected that any reductions could be accomplished WITHOUT layoffs
     
  • No action was taken and no final decisions made, but service reductions discussed include:
    • WPD Mounted Patrol
    • City’s contribution for School Resource Officers
    • Closure of Wallace Avenue Fire Station #4
    • Reduced Code Enforcement efforts
    • Closure of Legion and Northside city swimming pools
    • Elimination of city’s share of operating Safelight program
       

Employee Compensation highlights

  • For the 2014-15 budget, the city is considering options for funding a three-year employee pay increase plan that started in the current year’s budget
     
  • Goal of plan is to make salaries more competitive and provide a living wage so city can attract and retain quality workers
     
  • Currently, salaries for many city positions such as firefighters and construction workers are lower than other agencies, such as: New Hanover County, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and the cities of Fayetteville, Greenville and High Point
     
  • This year, city looking at options to help bring starting pay and pay ranges up to be more competitive, especially for jobs such as starting firefighters, while also including a small amount for across-the-board increases so that salaries don’t get further behind
     

The recommended budget will be finalized over the next two weeks and presented to City Council on May 6. 

 

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