WILMINGTON — It’s the way to continue progress in the city that will not increase your income tax rate, according to city officials.
At Thursday’s Wilmington City Council meeting, Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker spoke to council and attendees about the issue on the March 17 ballot — the continuance of the 0.5-percent municipal income tax which passed in 2016.
Shidaker was joined by Michael Allbright, one of the two co-chairs of the issue campaign. The other co-chair, Loren Stuckert, was not at the meeting due to being out of town.
One of the main messages the two wanted to convey to citizens is: “It will not increase your income tax rate.”
They also wanted to talk about what the tax currently funds and continues to fund, and what it does not.
According to the presentation, the tax funds the general fund which consists of safety/services (police, fire, and dispatch), building/zoning/code enforcement, transit, street maintenance and repairs, administration and council, auditor, treasurer/income tax, and the municipal court.
The tax would not support the enterprise fund which consists of waste, wastewater, stormwater, and landfill/sanitation.
In the presentation, Shidaker highlighted the street paving and repair work they’ve done since 2016, when the tax originally passed, and how the city has managed to step up their code and zoning enforcement since the tax’s passing.
The other major highlight was maintaining the city’s safety services staff. Shidaker and Police Chief Ron Cravens said that, even though they’ve managed to maintain a decent-sized staff for both the police and fire department, they’ve still been overworked.
Both indicated that if the tax fails at the ballot, it could mean staff cuts at safety/service, since a big chunk of the general fund goes to them.
“If we start talking about making cuts to our staffing and personnel, dispatch is also going to be cut. We’ll go down to a minimum of four dispatchers,” said Cravens.
This could mean one dispatcher per shift, with one rotation to cover days off.
As for patrol officers, cuts would lead to one sergeant and one officer per shift.
“What does that mean? Well, if your house gets broken into, it’s going to take some time to get there,” said Cravens. “It just means increased wait times and that customer service-driven police service we’ve been accustomed to give will be gone.”
A smaller staff could also lead to officers being overworked and burnt out, said Cravens.
Both Cravens and Shidaker did not wish to “forecast doom and gloom” but wanted to talk about the positives they’ve been able to do with the money.
“But I also believe the voters, the people, and the councilmembers, you guys need to know. You guys need to have the information … the truth. You need to know where the general fund money is spent,” said Shidaker.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574