City and County Leaders Discuss $ 7 Extra Fee to Fund WAVE Transit

WILMINGTON, North Carolina (WECT) – For years WAVE Transit struggled with funding and in 2019 New Hanover County voted to terminate its contract with the bus system due to financial issues. Following this decision, city and county leaders came together to restructure WAVE, however funding remains an issue. Today, city and county leaders are once again looking for ways to help finance the public transportation system.

During a subcommittee meeting where city and county leaders discussed the possibility of a $ 50 million housing bond, there were further discussions regarding WAVE Transit and the possibility add a seven-dollar registration fee for vehicles in the county to directly fund buses.

This is not the first time that the idea has arisen.

Ahead of the 2019 restructuring, Cape Fear Public Transit Authority (WAVE) vice chairman Steve Kelly Sr. asked county commissioners to consider implementing vehicle registration fees to help maintain afloat services. This request did not get the support it needed to pass.

And it appears that support from elected leaders is mixed this time around, too. Wilmington City Councilor Kevin Spears said he does not support registration fees because they are not fair.

“I’m more in favor of the quarter cent sales tax and that way I feel like it’s fairer for the citizens who live in our county who live in our town and the people who visit our county and our city. That way we cast that wide net and we can get everyone involved, ”he said.

WAVE Transit recently received an influx of money thanks to funding from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act of 2020. Almost $ 7 million has been injected into the public transport system, part of this money was supposed to help offset the free fares. buses provided at the height of the pandemic.

It should be noted that the City and the County are already funding WAVE Transit.

“Currently, the city has contributed $ 1,534,358 to WAVE. According to the agreement, this amount increases by 3% per year. It is transferred immediately at the start of the year to provide WAVE money to pay their bills until federal and state funding arrives, ”according to the City of Wilmington. “Periodically, we grant an authorization of up to $ 375,000 for purchases of fixed assets such as buses and shelters. WAVE is required to have local funding match approved before applying for Federal Transit funding. They haven’t asked us for this funding for a few years. However, this can change as buses come to the end of their lifecycle and needs arise. “

The subcommittee tasked with developing recommendations on this, as well as the suggested $ 50 million housing bond, meets on Wednesday.

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