Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dissecting the La Nasa/Saffo Article

I'm obviously not running against Bill Saffo, but I see a lot of lines in this article that repeatedly come up and I have to take issue with them.

Saffo stands on his record as a government official and his Wilmington roots, first being elected to council in 2003 and then mayor in 2006. From his perspective, the council has balanced multiple difficult budgets and has a AA+ bond rating.
Firstly, the city is required by law to balance the budget.  So, it's either that or get taken over by the state.

Secondly, city spending and the city budget does not match up.

Last year out budget was about $124M.  If you look at total city expenditures for 2010, you'll see they were $152M.  How is this possible?  Well, sometimes they simply come in over-budget.  Sometimes they dip into bond money.  Sometimes they use 2/3rds bonds, which are really tricky things that I hope everyone looks into.

So do they balance their budget at the beginning of the year?  Yes, but then they can clearly go beyond that to spend much more.
But LaNasa points out the council raised taxes in 2010 by 3.75 cents to a rate of 37 cents per $100 of assessed value. 
Good point.

The rates are also going to be raised very soon, because in Wilmington property values are down 13% since the last valuation done in 2007.  By the way, the revaluation had been put off for over a year.

So, what is the effect of this?

In order to stay revenue neutral, your property tax rate will have to increase 13%, meaning it will be about 42 cents per $100 of assessed value.  Additionally, middle income people are going to get hit the most, because high income places like downtown lost the largest percentage of value.

Some places in Wilmington were even valued higher than in 2007, meaning their property tax will be much higher because the valuation is higher and they'll be paying 13% more.
Compared with other large cities in North Carolina, Wilmington’s tax rate is on the low end, according to city documents.
What everyone needs to realize is property tax burden is more important than property tax rate.

Tax burden takes into account area median income. Obviously, paying $1000 in taxes will have a much bigger effect on the life of someone who makes $30,000 than someone who makes $1M. Wilmington has the 5th highest tax burden of the largest 33 NC cities.
For years, city leaders have taken flak for being too heavy handed when it comes to regulations on business owners. [...]Saffo said he empathizes with business owners. 

“I have a sensitivity to over regulation,” he said. “I also have got to be sensitive to the fact that I am the mayor of the city of Wilmington.”
What about the sign ordinance that has everyone furious? Do they take action on that? No, they take 30 days to "study" it.

Did you know that a new multi-family development in Wilmington has to devote 35% of its tract to "open space?"  And that if there's a naturally occurring pond or river on your property that doesn't count as open space. It's something that has to be built. Additionally, no more than 50% of the open space can be designated as "active" or "passive," meaning places where you might barbeque, have a gazebo.

It has to be pristine, undisturbed "open space" to look on as if it were a work of art.  Nevermind, of course, if the developer doesn't want that.

They tell you what trees you can plant and where you can plant them.

The average restaurant is required to use three times as much land to meet minimum parking requirements than to build the actual restaurant.

The list goes on and on. If they actually cared they would have done something by now.
He said many laws were put into place decades ago and the city has a duty to uphold them. But, he added, the city is open to changing laws if warranted.
Not the sign ordinance, which even has places like Thalian Hall upset. That was passed in 2008.
Saffo said the city has made strides when it comes to public safety. He said because of efforts with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, more bars are closing downtown and being replaced with restaurants and shops.
Yes, folks, we're closing down bars. Congratulations to us.  Of course, I have much simpler ideas to make us safe, that would actually grow the economy instead of shutting places down.

This ordinance is why clubs like Diesel right by Front and Market have been vacant for over a year. Because city regulations make it impossible for them to pass on their liquor license to the new owner. That place is specifically designed to be a music venue, some place that sells liquor.

We have a 23% vacancy rate downtown. This only increases it. Is having all these vacancies making us safer?

Additionally, the question that's never answered (and I've tried to find out, but it's very difficult to get numbers on) is: is less alcohol being consumed downtown since this new ordinance?  Is it not possible that the same amount of alcohol is being consumed, but people are just now in fewer venues? Does that make us more or less safe?

1 comment:

  1. Very well put josh, and the sad part is that we could go on an on an on about the lack of leadership this city has.On these issues and more.