City and County leaders discuss additional $7 fee to fund WAVE Transit

City and county leaders are once again looking for ways to help fund the public transportation system
Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 4:57 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - For years, WAVE Transit has struggled with funding and in 2019, New Hanover County voted to terminate its contract with the bus system due to financial problems. Following that decision, city and county leaders came together to restructure WAVE; however, funding remains a problem. Now, city and county leaders are looking for ways to help fund the public transportation system.

During a subcommittee meeting where city and county leaders discussed the possibility of a $50 million housing bond, there were other discussions regarding WAVE Transit and the possibility of adding a $7 registration fee for vehicles in the county to directly fund the buses.

It’s not the first time the idea has come up.

Prior to the restructuring of 2019, the Vice Chairman of the Cape Fear Public Transit Authority (WAVE) Steve Kelly Sr., asked the county commissioners to consider implementing a vehicle registration fee to help keep the services afloat. That request did not get the support it needed to pass.

And it looks like there is mixed support from elected leaders this time as well. Wilmington City Councilman Kevin Spears said he does not support the registration fee as it is not equitable.

“I am more in favor of the quarter cent sales tax and that way I feel like it is more equitable for the citizens who live in our county, who live in our city, and the people who visit our county and our city. That way we cast this wide net and we can get everyone participating,” he said.

WAVE Transit recently received an influx of cash thanks to funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. Nearly $7 million was injected into the transit system; part of that money was supposed to help offset the free fares the buses provided during the height of the pandemic.

It’s worth noting, the City and the County already fund WAVE Transit.

“Presently the city contributed $1,534,358 to WAVE. Per the agreement, this amount increases by 3% annually. It is transferred immediately in the beginning of the year to provide WAVE cash to pay their invoices until the Federal and State funding trickles in,” according to the City of Wilmington. “Periodically, we provide authorization of up to $375K for capital purchases such as buses and bus shelters. WAVE is required to have the local funding match authorized prior to applying for Federal Transit funding. They have not requested this funding from us for a few years. However, that may change as buses come to the end of their life cycle and needs arise.”

The subcommittee tasked with developing recommendations on this item, as well as the suggested $50 million housing bond, meets Wednesday.

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