Opponents of publicly-funded baseball stadium form new citizens' group

May 15, 2012

The City of Wilmington must pass its budget for the next fiscal year by the end of June.

And the recommended budget includes a property tax increase.  The money from the tax hike would be a dedicated revenue stream – and not used in service of a baseball stadium.   But as WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, some opponents of a taxpayer-funded baseball stadium say this increase is just the beginning.

“Look, people, your money’s being wasted.  Your government is taking money from you that’s hard to earn these days and spending it on things that the government has no business being involved in.” 

That’s Scott Harry, small business owner, Wilmington resident, and one of the organizers of the Privately Funded Baseball Alliance.  The Alliance is set up, says Harry, to protest the use of taxpayer money to build a baseball stadium in Wilmington. 

City Spokesperson Malissa Talbert says there are no plans to fund the project with city dollars.  Talbert also says the proposed property tax increase of 3 cents would be used solely for short-term maintenance needs such as sidewalk and pothole repair – and for longer-term infrastructure needs like road paving. 

“It is simply a way for us to provide a dedicated funding mechanism that we could count on from year to year to address the long-term and very pressing maintenance needs that we have in our community.” 

But Scott Harry says he fears a second tax increase if the city’s independent consultant -- hired to determine the feasibility of a baseball stadium -- comes back with a recommendation to build.  If the project gets a green light, Malissa Talbert says city officials aren’t yet indicating how they would fund it. 

“Well, that’s something that Council would have to consider.  Because we haven’t had a specific proposal on the table, there’s not been anything to react to.  So they will have to make a decision at that time about when, how, where, if….” 

Talbert says city officials expect the stadium’s feasibility report to be complete by mid-June – just before the final budget is approved.