Wilmington - The Wilmington City Council approved $70 million in financing on Tuesday night (4/18/2023) to purchase the downtown Thermo Fisher campus. The agreement would impose a 1.5 cent per dollar increase on the local sales tax to complete the building purchase. The vote was unanimous, with Republicans Luke Waddell, Charlie Rivenbark, and Neil Anderson all voting for the building financing and the sales tax increase.
This is a particularly maddening decision, given the fact that City does not actually need anywhere close to this amount of space to accomodate city workers. Only 5 floors of the 12-story building will actually be occupied by city employees. The rest will be sublet out to private companies. It might be appropriate if the City purchased a building that was slightly larger than what they currently need. It might make sense to purchase a building the City could grow in to, and then temporarily sublet space in the interim. What is not appropriate is for the City to become a long term commercial real estate landlord.
Furthermore, the 5 floors the City plans to occupy with city workers are the five most scenic and desirable luxury offices in the building. If these floors were sublet, they could generate more revenue than the other less desirable floors. The City will generate less revenue for itself because it wants to reward high ranking city employees with cushy office space.
The sad part is that we the taxpayers will suffer for this fiscally irresponsible misadventure. With the inflation rate being the highest its been in almost 50 years, many working-class families are having an extremely hard time making ends meet. Coupled with the soaring prices of almost all consumer goods, the soaring costs of homes, property taxes, and rental properties in New Hanover County have left many of the city's employees in a financial position where they really can't afford to live in the City they work for. But the Out of Touch Wilmington City Council thinks that it is appropriate to burden these struggling families with an additional 1.5% sales tax increase on every purchase they make locally, just so they can buya building they don't need.
Thankfully, the purchase needs to be approved by the Local Government Commission (LGC), which is led by our fiscally conservative State Treasurer, Dale Folwell. The LGC will meet on May 2nd to vote on whether to approve the purchase of the Thermo Fisher Campus. We are investigating when and where this meeting will take place, and will update you with details ASAP.