City Council hears proposed 2019-20 budget
Tax rate unchanged; small increases to some utilities
The Wilson City Council began its annual budget discussions Thursday night with the presentation of City Manager Grant Goings’ proposed budget. The spending plan is for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2020.
The proposed budget totals $253.5 million, an increase of 4.6 percent from the current budget. The property tax rate will remain at 57.5 cents per $100 valuation.
In his message, Goings highlighted the competitiveness of Wilson Energy electric rates. Rates will increase 1.8 percent, passing along a rate increase received by NCEMPA, the city’s wholesale energy provider. Goings also emphasized this year’s budget priorities, including investment in parks and continued focus on downtown revitalization.
“This year’s budget fulfils the priorities the City Council has set,” said Goings. “The tough decisions the Council has made in the past, including funding salary increases for the Wilson Police Department and enacting the registration fee to increase streets funding, are paying off for the community.”
Although Goings acknowledged there is much more work to do in street maintenance, he said the desired impact of the new registration fee is working and the city has resurfaced more than 20 miles of city streets in the past three years. Wilson Police Department’s vacancy rate has decreased last year, with the high quality applicant pool now available for any open positions.
Electric Rates Remain Below State Average
Since the initial rate decrease in the fall of 2015, electric rates have been lowered by 22 percent. The proposed 1.8 percent increase will be the first increase since 2012.
“After the asset sale, we had a choice to pass along the entire savings or design a phasing structure,” said Goings. “We chose to be aggressive with the rate decrease, and pass along the entire savings immediately to Wilson Energy customers. We knew that would mean passing along future wholesale increasing using that same philosophy.”
The electric rate will remain below $0.10 per kWh after the increase, lower than North Carolina’s average rate of almost $0.11. Customers have saved more than $45 million since rates were lowered in 2015.
“Wilson, like most communities, has benefited from the strong national economy,” said Goings. “But it would be hard to argue that the additional $45 million that has remained in our local economy due to our electric rate decreases has not had a significant impact on the momentum we see today.”
Investment in Parks Continues
The 2019-20 budget includes capital investment in the parks system.
“The Wilson community has shown us they want parks like Lake Wilson Park and Rotary Park,” Goings said of the focus on improving parks facilities across the city. “Our parks system is enjoyed by residents and visitors in all age ranges, we want to continue to improve our offerings to add to Wilson’s quality of life.”
Several parks improvements have been completed in the last several years, including turf fields at Gillette Athletic Complex, the new pedestrian bridge and walking trail at Lake Wilson Park, and a complete renovation at Rotary Park (formerly Cavalier Park). Wilson’s first dog park at Toisnot Park is under construction now.
Other highlights of the budget include:
- A $1 monthly increase in the water base rate and a $1 monthly increase in the sewer base rate and a 2 percent volume increase on water and sewer rates for residential customers.
- A $0.50 monthly increase in the stormwater fee to support infrastructure improvements, as recommended by the citizen-led Stormwater Committee.
- No raises for city employees before the results of the annual audit are presented in October. This has become the City’s standard practice in recent years – to check the City’s financial status before committing to any raises. Raises have also been merit-based in recent years with no across-the-board guarantees.
Wilson’s peer group includes Kinston, Goldsboro, Rocky Mount and Greenville. The group has an average tax rate of 63.2 cents per $100 valuation.
The City Council will hold a budget work session during its morning meeting on Thursday, June 6, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in Council Chambers.
The public hearing on the budget will be Thursday, June 20, beginning at 7 p.m. at City Hall. State law requires the City Council to adopt the 2018-19 budget before July 1.