WILMINGTON — Officials plan to examine the wage scale of city workers for possible changes that may improve the town’s future financial picture, perhaps especially when the economy is down.
At Thursday’s meeting of city council, Wilmington City Councilman Lonnie Stuckert said he believes, after looking into the city’s budget in more detail, that the current wage system is the problem that’s hurting the city’s finances.
“It’s very apparent to me that the city is definitely hurting financially,” Stuckert said Thursday. Stuckert was the lone council member to vote May 19 against a first reading on a resolution placing a supplemental earnings tax on the November ballot.
Specifically, Stuckert wants to address the wage scale’s “automatic steps and increases that don’t consider the city’s incoming revenue, and [don’t consider] where we are financially.”
Later, in a similar vein, he spoke of the way the wage system is set up, with “automatic increases across the board in steps” for city employees.
If city voters are to pass the 0.5 percent supplemental earnings tax, they need to see city officials taking action to solve financial problems so as to avoid a future need to extend the five-year supplemental tax, said Stuckert.
“So, if this is a temporary tax, then we want to avoid going back for more taxes,” said the councilman.
Council’s Judiciary Committee Chairperson Randi Milburn said review of the employees’ wage scale is “coming into fruition,” but she cautioned it will not be a quick step.
Meanwhile, council held a second reading on the resolution to put the supplemental earnings tax before the voters on the fall ballot, with Stuckert this time approving.
The proposed earnings tax supplement would raise the city’s current 1 percent earnings tax to 1.5 percent. After five years, the tax would go back to 1 percent, unless council puts the tax issue back on the ballot and residents approve it.
The third and final reading — and council’s decisive vote — on whether to place the earnings tax issue on the ballot is expected to be held at the June 16 meeting of city council.
In other news from council chambers:
• Through the first five months of 2016, the city’s earnings tax generated about $2,821,000 compared to about $2,360,000 at the same time last year. The increase of $460,749 represents a 19.5 percent increase compared to last year at the same time, according to City of Wilmington Tax Commissioner Marque V. Jones.
• Milburn, who is council’s Parks and Recreation Committee chairperson, said the free miniature library at the J.W. Denver Williams Jr. Memorial Park is in need of books.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.