High employee turnover, distributing ARPA funds among the focuses of Wilmington budget work session

Members of the Wilmington City Council met today to discuss plans for this year's and next...
Members of the Wilmington City Council met today to discuss plans for this year's and next year's budget.(WECT)
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 12:56 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Wilmington City Council met Friday, Jan. 28, for a budget work session with the major focuses including the acceleration of transportation projects, increasing wages for city employees, and laying out the spending of ARPA funds.

A market study of state and local governments

A good portion of the meeting was spent reviewing research to see how Wilmington can retain more employees and reduce turnover.

For those following the news lately, this won’t be a shock: like many across the nation, the city has been facing staffing shortages.

The majority of employees leave jobs for completely voluntary reasons. Meanwhile, inflation outpaced wage growth in 2021 while the average employee faced a 2.5% pay cut in the same year. Turnover in 2021 increased in Wilmington, but this trend follows those in most of the referenced organizations.

But that doesn’t mean every department in Wilmington faced the same turnover rate.

People working on parks, landscaping and streets had turnover rates between 33-47% in 2021. Wilmington also has several vacancies: police and firefighters have around 15% of their positions vacant, while construction workers and equipment operators are operating with only 40% of positions filled.

To fix this, the initial proposal looks to spend $5-6 million to raise wages up to 10% for city employees. Employees who make less would receive more than those who already have higher wages.

Distributing funds from the American Rescue Plan

Wilmington is set to receive $26 million from the American Rescue Plan. One half has already been received, and the other $13 million is set to be received in June 2022.

Here’s a breakdown of where those funds could be going, however these are not final numbers. While ARPA restricts where funds can go, there is still much debate to be had about exactly where those funds are distributed. All figures are in millions.

Economic and Community Assist: $9 million total
  • Business assistance (Chamber) $1.91
  • Non-profit assistance (United Way) $0.5
  • Job training & placement (Film Init) $0.4
  • Small business entrepreneurial (GB) $0.1
  • Wilmington Centric Tourism $0.75
  • Housing Assist - gap fin (Starway) $3.5
  • Afford housing preservation (CFC) $0.25
  • Utilities Assist program (Good Shep) $0.5
  • Substance Abuse Aide (Coastal Hor) $0.1
  • Comm Arts Program (Arts Council) $0.2
  • Food Desert collaboration (NS/FB) $0.2
  • Comm enrichment (MLK Kitchen) $0.59
City/Community Infrastructure Investment $4.67 million total
  • City Hall HVAC $1.42
  • Technology upgrades/digital divide $2.5
  • Stormwater (10th & Grace) $0.25
  • Parks outdoor improvements (TBD) $0.5
City Continued response and recovery $12.26 million total
  • Rev loss -Convention center/parking $5.6
  • Convention Center Outdoor Pavilion $2
  • City response (cleaning, ppe, technology) $0.25
  • Employee bonus/employment incentive $2.5
  • Administration $0.1
  • Reserve-council priorities / future needs $1.7

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