Budget and Taxes
Last year our current county commission elected to raise our taxes even though we were going through an economic downturn caused by COVID and in spite of the Millions of dollars externally being added to our local revenue streams through various economic emergency aid packages from the state and federal governments. As some of you know I publicly opposed that tax increase and made it clear during my public comment at that commissioners meeting. (you can view that public comment here https://newhanovernc.swagit.com/play/06082021-1762?fbclid=IwAR0u9ccb3AdC9a7nbRpFHRmAyd9dehypHvG00ilYZ1NZpHsTbdY_J4vkC7g . Its line item 14 starting at the 42 minute mark).
NHC has roughly a $500M tax revenue budget normally that tends to increase naturally through economic development (without raising tax rate) by 10 15 percent per year. Last year the county (if include all of the municipalities) received close to the same amount additional funding through various grants (this is one time funding, not ongoing) effectively doubling our available budget. With that amount of additional budget there is absolutely no reason to raise the tax rates last year. A fairly large portion of that one time funding is now being used for ongoing programs which means when the funding stops we will have to raise tax to cover that additional cost. This needs to be immediately addressed now to prevent that “no other choice” of raising taxes again in the next couple years. One time funding of ongoing programs has to be stopped now before it is too late. With today’s inflation rates we must take action to ensure our tax rates remain low as inflation is going to make everyday costs increase. Our less advantaged and fix income population can not afford to have our county commission continue to raise that cost by building in unnecessary tax increases on top of inflation
Our Commission recently (3/21/2022) elected to add a quarter cent sale tax increase referendum on the ballot this fall. This tax increase is to fund expenditures for transportation issues which Wave Transient, Rail Realignment and Bike Paths use that funding.
- The rail realignment is a needed activity that will reduce traffic standstills on US421 by rerouting the rail line to the port to go future south through Brunswick County and then into the port. This allows expansion of the port for better economic development (jobs). This is a good item and will likely pay for itself quickly with increased gross domestic product flowing through the Port of Wilmington
- While I absolutely support public transportation, it is essential for economic development, I do not support increased funding for the Wave Transient system as I made perfectly clear about 3 years ago when this issue first went public by the County and the Municipalities cutting funding for Wave Transient due to inability to manage their budget. We have replaced the Wave director and the Wave board but haven’t seen any significant improvement yet (probably not enough time yet to tell). Until the new director and board get a chance to modify the system into something designed for Wilmington and not New York City we shouldn’t unnecessarily add funding. Wave Transient is perfectly financially sound from their own reporting for the next 2 years. We should give them at least another year to get the system right before doing any increase in funding. Quite frankly I think a properly designed system for Wilmington can provide more services for our citizens as a lower cost
During my career in the Nuclear Industry I have been in charge of budgets and personal departments larger than New Hanover currently has. I know and have experience with managing large budgets that I was personally responsible for. Let me put that experience to work for you as a commissioner.