WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- We got a lot of feedback after our recent report about New Hanover County spending almost $200,000 of your money on dues and subscriptions. Tonight, we're shifting our focus to the City of Wilmington.
The city dropped about $125,000 on dues and subscriptions ranging from the city's $34,000 membership to the League of Municipalities to paying for an employee's personal membership to the NAACP.
We'll give the city credit that we did not find nearly as many redundant subscriptions to the newspaper and Sam's Club as we did when we went through the county's budget line by line, but the city still had a few line items that stood out, like paying a police officer's dues to the NAACP. City Manager Sterling Cheatham said he was unaware of that expense and thinks it should be cut.
"I don't think it's appropriate if it's personal dues for the NAACP," Cheatham said. "I'm a NAACP member. I don't pay my dues with tax payer dollars."
By far the biggest line item is the city's dues for the League of Municipalities. It's $34,000 to be part of the group, which essentially lobbies on behalf of Wilmington and other cities for causes that favor city government. For example, lobbying to keep forced annexation laws the way they are. But some city taxpayers say that's not a cause they support, and they don't want the city spending their money on it.
"The biggest problem with any government, from a city to Washington, is they're not in touch with what their people want. They're doing what they want," Wilmington resident Dustin Wagner said.
Some residents we talked with are also government employees, who see first hand how their tax money is spent when they go to work every day.
"I could definitely see a few things that they could get rid of still, and there's a few upgrades that we're making now that could definitely wait, but I believe that the bottom line expenses are about where they should be," taxpayer and EMT Jordan Bearss said.
Cheatham said by and large the city's memberships help us stay abreast of good ideas and good opportunities, and are more than worth the money. And he admits, more cuts could be made.
"I think there may be room to cut, but the fact of the matter is we typically go through this exercise each year, looking at how we can reduce spending, not just in dues and subscriptions." Cheatham said. "We reduced our budget in the past three years by over 15 percent."
A few other line items that caught our attention: Cheatham's $120 subscription to the Harvard Business Review, $10,000 for the city's membership to the North Carolina Metropolitan Coalition and $150 for dues to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.