Find out what’s happening in 2016 for the City of Wilson. Here you will find an on-going list of city wide projects and department specific initiatives.
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$10 million savings from Wilson Energy electric rate decrease
It’s been nearly eight months since the city reduced residential electric rates by 17.8 percent, following the asset sale by the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency. In that time, Wilson Energy customers have saved more than $10 million.
“We hope that money is showing up in your businesses and institutions,” said Goings.
He added that Wilson Energy is now price competitive with Duke Energy Progress and he thinks public power will return as the provider of choice due to excellent, local customer service and higher reliability.
Impact of property revaluation
The county recently completed a property revaluation, a project required by state law every eight years. Wilson residents were notified of their reassessed property value earlier this year. For property in the city, values decreased by an average of 7.23 percent. This decrease is unprecedented in recent history – property typically appreciates over an eight-year period. But the last valuation was conducted in 2007, before the effects of the Great Recession were fully felt in eastern North Carolina.
This change represents a $1.6 million decrease in revenue for the city if the rate is not changed to a revenue-neutral amount. Revenue neutral means that the tax rate changes to an amount that still brings the same revenue given the reassessed value.
For example, if the assessed value of a home is $100,000 and the tax rate is .515, the annual tax is $515. When that property is reassessed to the Wilson average decrease, making it now an assessed value of $92,700, the tax rate is adjusted to .555, resulting in approximately the same annual tax of $514.87.
No easy solutions
The City Council will begin considering the 2016-17 budget at its May 19 meeting. The Council will carefully consider the options available. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy solution to the revaluation concern. The city hasn’t had a tax rate increase in 11 years and many projects and capital expenditures have been delayed awaiting the revaluation. Service levels for all city services – police, fire, trash and streets, among others – cannot remain at the current level with any decreased revenue. A vast majority of property tax revenue goes directly to public safety expenditures.
Keeping Wilson safe
While many neighboring communities in eastern North Carolina face high crime rates, Wilson’s crime rate remains lower than our peer group throughout North Carolina. Additionally, the Wilson Police Department’s community policing model commits more than 10,000 hours of community service annually from Wilson police officers. Our officers respond to more calls per hour than the national average for police departments. Our commitment must remain to keeping Wilson as safe as possible – for our residents and our dedicated police officers.
Continued investment to be the best
Gillette Athletic Park remains a show piece for the Wilson community. Many national and regional tournaments are held in Wilson each year, resulting in more than $3 million in tourism money coming into the community.
“It takes continued investment to be the best,” said Goings.
That’s especially true in the highly competitive arena of sports tourism, with new facilities being constructed constantly. For several years, Wilson leaders have attempted to increase the occupancy tax that visitors pay when staying in a Wilson hotel. This added revenue – most often paid by out-of-state visitors – would be an excellent revenue source for ongoing improvements at Gillette. The occupancy tax change is a legislative action that needs support of the North Carolina General Assembly.
The City began the extensive grant agreement process in early 2016, working closely with both the federal and state Departments of Transportation. While the project is already defined, all the planning and design work must be completed before construction begins. We expect construction to begin in the next two to three years. Look for more updates coming in 2016 as we hit key milestones.
“We see the investment in this section of 301 as a precursor to future development in east Wilson. It’s a long-range project that will improve the safety along this important corridor. Additionally, securing a highly-competitive federal grant it is a tremendous opportunity for Wilson and a testament to our transportation and economic development planning.”
Rodger Lentz, chief planning and development officer
Wilson was recently selected to participate in the inaugural class of InnovateNC, a project designed to spur innovation outside of North Carolina’s typical technology hubs. InnovateNC is led by the state’s most respected public policy institutions, including the Institute for Emerging Issues – the lead partner – along with the Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, UNC and NC State University.
Over the next two years, Wilson’s newly-formed Innovation Council will work to create a new vision for innovative economic growth in the community. Teams from Asheville, Greensboro, Wilmington and Pembroke will work alongside the Wilson team to enhance innovation in the selected communities.
More information is available on the InnovateNC project page and updates will be available as work continues.
“As a community dedicated to progress and innovation, it is truly inspiring to have these distinguished partners recognize the potential we already see in ourselves. The extremely competitive process should instill a sense of pride in our community and excitement that we are building a brighter future.”
Grant Goings, city manager
In December 2015, the Wilson City Council authorized providing Greenlight service to residents of the Town of Pinetops. Wilson and Pinetops have a long history of working together – Wilson Energy has provided electric service to Pinetops since 1972.
Talks between the two communities about adding Greenlight service started in 2010 yet were stopped when the North Carolina General Assembly passed the 2011 legislation limiting Greenlight’s service territory to the Wilson County limits. After the FCC’s ruling in February 2015, talks resumed between the two parties and agreement was reached in December 2015.
More information is available on the Greenlight services to Pinetops project page. Any updates will be provided there.