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ONLY ON 3: A look at what the City of Wilmington spends on subscriptions and dues

READ MORE: ONLY ON 3: A look at what the City of Wilmington spends on subscriptions and dues

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.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Think about it....

Ok, so the "city" should look at each item, line by line and verify if its worthy of our tax dollars. Lets even do it even smarter. Lets look at last year, and see what we need to cut on the next budget.

Now THINK ABOUT IT. It will take probably 2-3 people probably months to accumulate, sort, and sift through the piles of forms from the city, fire, police, WAVE, and whatever else. Then, there will be the question and justification process, bringing reps from those departments down, or at least taking them away from the tasks that we pay them for (wasting money). Then they'll submit the list of "bad" items, only to be reviewed by supervisors (wasting money again), then submitted again for final cut. These people will be paid a salary, have benefits, be trained, etc.

How much will that cost? A lot more than 80,000.

Thanks WWAY for uncovering this!!!

I can guarantee you that NONE of the local government entites would divulge this information voluntarily!!!

The key to being held accountable is having knowledge of where the money is being spent. At the very best the public may be provided with a bunch of fuzzy, yet colorful pie charts as to where the governmnet spends OUR money, but the REAL details that show where the wasted spending is will always obscured. It's called, "smoke and mirrors".

The more the public knows about rediculous spending, the more they will scruitinize how THEIR money is spent. The days of fat-cat tax and spend are soon coming to an end!!!

If we do this right, it will no longer be "profitable" to be a politician. Then the only ones in politics will have a true "heart" for the people and land they represent instead of thier own self-centered, pocket filling interests.

Sounds more like fairy tale doesn't it?

I have no idea what you are

I have no idea what you are ranting about. Good job on the smoke and mirrors. Politics was never meant to be profitable, it is all about prestige for some.For some, it is a privelidge.

Zero Based Budgeting

The City & County (& Feds) should adopt ZERO BASED BUDGETING where EVERY line item is justified each year. Taking last year's budget and adding or deleting (hah!) items leads to significant waste. Justify each and every expenditure every year.

Use the metric of "Is this expenditure so important that it merits taking money from our taxpayers that could otherwise be used by those individuals and families for their own expenses as they choose?" Also, consolidate "targeted funds" when calculating the level of expenditures. People like to squirrel away funds that just sit and could otherwise be used efficiently in other parts of the budget.


I'm sure the city taxpayers that don't support annexation are the ones that got annexed.Is that the best(or worse)example you could come up with?

I believe that each of the

I believe that each of the city's fire depts has to flip the bill for their newspaper subscription. The firefighters at the station pay for it. How in the hell can paying for any printed subscription by the city be justified?? Esp publications that could be considered biased in many ways. Enjoy the reading at the taxpayers expense!

WWAY - Short-sided again.

Continually, your story angles on stuff like this shows a lack of balance. While you may go to the City Manager or somebody within government to get a comment, it's clear through many of your reports that the conclusion to the story is already's just a matter of how you're going to meander to get there.

When a professional HR director, engineer, law officer or other government employee gets a subscription paid for, they get newsletters, auto-forwarded e-mail notices, and conference invitiations...many of which have models, ideas, vendor sources, and other tools that help that officer become a better employee. These ideas (in the time of limited budgets) are force multipliers and allow the government to save by not having to pay consultants or other contractors fees to come up with ideas that are already in the trade journals etc. The ability to network with folks from bigger cities, with better programs and work models in practice is good government.

Nobody I have ever worked with in 30 years of government service signs on to get rich (that is for local elected officials looking out for their real estate interests). Many of these subscriptions and licenses are expensive enough the employee would not pay for it out of his own pocket, but if the employer can, the newsletter for example, can be shared by many.

How many of your own employees would benefit from some type of professional journal, paid for by WWAY, which would teach you how to be better journalists? I think y'all should look into that.

What if those 200,000 dollars spent on subscription fees saved the local government (and taxpayers) exponentially more by exposing a more efficient way of doing something? That is a story you'll never see on WWAY.

Get Real

I'm a professional and have been in a specialized field for many years. In order for me to be desirable, I must stay at the top of my game. Never in my 37 years of working on any job, have I had anything handed to me and I can pretty much write my own ticket. It all came from hard work. It's about time you government leachs had a dose of reality handed to you. I bet I could do those jobs without the subscription, studying on my time!

I agree, one should realize

I agree, one should realize by now that WWAY likes the stories that really get people peed off! I agree they should be much much more professional.

That's why it's called...

investigative journalism. Our elected officials, as well as those they hire, are expected to be good stewards of the money provided by the taxpayers. Ann has shown where both the County and City spend OUR money in ways that need to be questioned. It is OUR right to question and OUR right to rectify situations where they aren't spending our money wisely. How do we do that? On election day.

Now that you have covered

Now that you have covered NHC and the City, what about Cape Fear Public Utility Authority?

You're wrong Sterling...

Your dues to the NAACP are paid by the taxpayers since it's our tax dollars that pay your salary. But that would be splitting hairs, wouldn't it?

As the City Manager, you should go through the budget BEFORE it's ever presented to City Council and look for these items that are a waste of taxpayer dollars.

"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."

>Big Whoop-Di-Do Sterling! So you've reduced your budget, but raised our taxes. I guess I should be thankful, but I'm not. If you looked a little harder and made your pencil a tad sharper, I'm sure you can find a helluva lot more to cut. And why in the hell should we pay for your subscription to the Harvard Business Review? Apparently it hasn't benefited us taxpayers in terms of how you run the City. Am I bitter? You bet your a** I am...and I vote!

Splitting Hairs?

No,thats not splitting hairs,thats making a ignorant comment.

I read the one post that

I read the one post that talks about how the city benefits from some of these subscriptions, and I can half buy that. I'm unable to figure out exactly what Law Enforcement Benefit the taxpayers receive from the NAACP though. Does the NAACP provide some sort of Law Enforcement Guidance to the Police? I doubt it. This is sheer government waste, and absolutely disgusting in my book that someone at the Police Department would have the gall to bill their personal membership to a somewhat controversial group that has nothing to do with law enforcement. What the heck is going on down there?