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Possible tax hike for businesses downtown

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Plans to raise taxes in Wilmington's downtown business district to support downtown events and promotions have resurfaced. In 2010, Wilmington Downtown Incorporated planned to pitch the idea to City Council until some stakeholders rejected the idea.

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark hopes City Council will look deeper into the proposal and return with new options, including the idea of a tax increase for downtown businesses.

Officials cannot agree on the cost of supporting more than a dozen events that draw half a million people downtown. As events expand or move downtown, the city has to spend more to support them as workers help with cleanup or other services.

City leaders are now looking at tax hikes for businesses which could mean higher prices for downtown goods and services.

"If they're going to tax businesses for cleanup on the streets they can get that money from other places besides taxing the businesses down here. I mean it really does sound stupid to do," said Chris Record, a Village Market employee.

The proposal could gain traction if city leaders eye it as a possible source of revenue to help support downtown events.

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark says the proposal would offset costs of the events and send them to the people who benefit from them the most. "It really depends on where the money is coming from and where the money is going, and if it is worth it, because the money has got to come from somewhere. If it has to come from the businesses but we benefit from it, then it's all around a good thing," said Joseph Hauserc, a Shuckin' Shack employee.

Rivenbark also said the central business district could fund the "Bring It! Downtown" campaign, a marketing effort designed to lure residents and visitors alike to the downtown area.

One business owner says she is not ready to commit to anything until she sees numbers and what makes sense.

"Until we know all those numbers and what other issues they're trying to address are. I think it's premature to say weather it would be a good thing or a bad thing," said Joan Loch, owner of Crescent Moon.

Mayor Bill Saffo told the StarNews that City Council will talk about it, but he's not sure if it will go any further than that.

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