WILMINGTON -- Tuesday night Wilmington City Council approved the budget for next year. Wilmington residents will pay about half a cent more in taxes to cover City costs. And they'll also pay a bit more to park in downtown Wilmington. It may not seem like a big difference. But the cost for a metered parking spot will soon be changing from 50 cents to 75 cents an hour in downtown Wilmington, and some people aren't happy about it. Wilmington resident Lisa Griffies said, "It already deters local residents from coming downtown because of the parking. And I just think it's going to be a larger deterrent." Tuesday night City Council approved the 25 cent an hour hike for the meters. The cost for monthly parking in the City decks also went up from $40 to $45 an month. The new rates should generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra revenue for the City each year to help pay down the debt on the City's parking decks. In other business City Council officially established the Cape Fear Utility Authority. It's a new governing body for the local sewer system. Wilmington resident Robert Beckton said, "Every year they're raising taxes and not so much the salary. You know, the wages stay the same, so how can we pay higher taxes if we're going to keep the wages the same. So that bothers me." New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington will now merge, consolidating management and billing for the sewer system into one agency. Besides making administration more efficient, the move is expected to streamline repairs to the local sewer system. Wilmington City firefighters turned out to demand better pay. Tom Robinson supports firefighter pay increase. He said, "We are behind in salaries. You as a council and mayor have told us that we are behind in salaries. So what we are asking is how are you going to solve that problem?" While City Council plans to study the pay scale for all City employees there are no immediate plans to give firefighters the raise they're asking for. Roberta McLamb wants raises for firefighters. She said, "I was a little disappointed. In fact I was very disappointed that they put a park before the fireman raise."
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