The City of Wilmington is hurting financially.
The city’s leaders are taking a hard look at the problems. They’re asking the hard questions. They’re also making a hard request of citizens — to give 0.5 percent of their wages when many are still hurting financially.
They know their answers may not be popular or an easy sell to the city’s residents, but they’re willing to do what it takes for the long-term good of the city.
Streets are underfunded. Wilmington, as well as other cities, is in the midst of a heroin epidemic; a lack of additional revenue will almost certainly affect emergency services, which receive most of their revenue from the city’s general fund.
A 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 measure will head to the November ballot assuming a third vote on it passes council.
Leaders also plan to examine the wage scale of city workers for possible changes that may improve the town’s future financial picture, especially when the economy is down.
Councilman Lonnie 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.”
For the most part, it’s easy to tell how most of the money would be spent — the $1.3 million deficit has to be filled. Beyond that, Mayor John Stanforth has said he wants to rebuild the city’s cash reserves and pave its streets.
Councilman Joe Spicer said he wants to show citizens that council is being judicious with its money by finding savings within the budget. Councilman Lonnie Stuckert wants to address the city’s pay scales, an option the city’s administration is currently reviewing.
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.
While councilwoman Kelsey Swindler and Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand have said council should enact a permanent tax, an advantage to the tax being temporary is that the citizens can judge how judicious council has spent their money for five years.
If that council asks for the tax again, the proof will be in the pudding.