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Budget proposal and annexation on tap for Wilmington City Council

READ MORE: Budget proposal and annexation on tap for Wilmington City Council
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Tuesday is the night when Wilmington City Council members will vote on the Monkey Junction annexation and will take a look at the budget for the upcoming year. A nearly 2 million dollar projected decrease in sales tax and more than half-a-million dollars less in property taxes are two main reasons the city is facing a 6.5 million dollar budget deficit. Tuesday night, City Manager Sterling Cheatham will present the 2009-2010 budget proposal to City Council. Property taxes won't be going up and no layoffs will be needed under the budget proposal, but there will be cuts. The city's budget for the upcoming fiscal year is 122.5 million dollars, that's nearly a 4.5 percent decrease from this year. The city will eliminate 36 positions across several departments; most of the positions are vacant, so no one will lose their job. These cuts are in addition to millions of dollars the city has already trimmed. “You're talking about 10 million dollars worth of reductions that we've had to take in a one year budget. That's a big hit and we've done that without laying off employees or raising taxes,” said Wilmington spokesperson Malissa Talbert. No layoffs, but city employees will be impacted. They'll see higher health insurance costs, a decrease in retirement contributions, and no raises. The city will also offer early retirement to 100 employees they don't plan to replace, combine certain departments, and reduce capital projects. As far as departments losing people, the Wilmington Police Department will be hardest hit; they will lose 11 positions. Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said the reduction in force wouldn’t affect the department’s core mission. “We are moving people into patrol from other units within the department. The traffic unit will be down and some of our traffic enforcement initiatives will have to be picked up by our patrol.” Of course the new budget will impact Wilmington residents. They'll see a two percent increase in storm water fees. Captital improvements like roads and sidewalks will only be done if absolutely necessary. Many residents said they'll deal with bad roads, if it means people can keep their jobs. “Yeah I would be good with that. I'd keep all the guys that have jobs working and I’d do the roads and capital improvements later,” said Wilmingtonian Brad Biron. The Wilmington Fire Department will also begin charging for inspections they currently provide for free. Also, there will be a charge for law enforcement to respond to a false alarm at a business or home. Officials said the city can only cut services and positions so far before they need to find more revenue. One way the city is hoping to generate more revenue is through more property taxes. They'll be generated through the annexation that council will vote on tonight, it's expected to pass. The area is about 950 acres and will affect about 3,300 people. There has been a lot of opposition to this topic, but annexation supporters say this will keep tax rates low for city residents and have people who use city services pay for them.

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Oh come on!

With the economy the way it is today, the County just laid off employees AND had a mandatory furlough (in other words, PAYCUT), and state employees are going through the same thing. If anyone actually went online and read the city's budget, you'll see that there is a 99% chance that the WPD will be receiving stimulus funding to supplant those vacant positions. The convention center is a non-issue, since none of the funding for that comes from property taxes. Somehow the city balanced their budget without layoffs, paycuts, furloughs, OR raising taxes. I don't know about you, but I can wait a year to have my road paved. It looks to me like at least one of our local governmental bodies was a little prepared for this crisis. I guess it's hard for me to understand how a city employee could be upset when their pay hasn't been cut, they all are working and it looks like they will be getting raises next year. Talk to one of those county employees who recently got laid off.

Crooked Council

As much as I hate to see people get forced annexation, it does not hurt as bad as the reason the city is having to do it. The ridiculous spending habits of the Crooked Council is ruining city department budgets. I am an employee of the Wilmington Fire Department, and I can attest to the ire we all have for this group of hipocrits. We are going to take away benefits, retirement, and people from public safety among other departments, yet we are going to spend $4.5 million on a half acre lot downtown for the homelss, $5 million extra on a convention center that is a money pit without a hotel big enough to support it, $20,000 for them to go have dinner and drinks in DC, and the list goes on. This is horrific and I hope we all stand against them next time they are up for removal!

Fired Up

Curious as to why you think the Convention Center has any effect on the city's budget? If you're a city employee then you should know that all money to build and to operate the convention center comes straight from Room Occupancy Taxes, and that's the only thing that money can be used for. Plus it's putting people to work. I'm also wondering what you mean when you say that your benefits are being taken away? From what I read in the budget, city workers health care went up only slightly, and the city decreased their contribution to employees' 401K by 2% for just one year. I know many state and county employees who would not mind that.

How nice.

How nice it must be to go reach into others' pockets to fund yourself with no repercussion of any kind. Know what I wish? I wish the county could offset their budget issues by reaching into the city limits and taking what they want. With the exception of the lone dissenting commissioner, these politicians sicken me. Apparently, they have lost the understanding of what being a politician is about. We, the citizens, elect leaders. They are SUPPOSED to be speaking on our behalf. We do NOT elect them so that they can go do what they want, to hell with us if we don't like it. This attitude among politicians is despicable and it's growing. Even Obama was quoted as saying that he does not have to answer questions if he does not want to. To ALL politicians EVERYWHERE: YES, you DO have to answer to us, the citizens that vote and pay taxes. We put you where you are with the understanding that you would speak on our behalf, reflecting the beliefs of your constituents. Yes, I know that the city will benefit from the increased revenues. To me, however, that does NOT supercede the concerns of the public. I work in the 911 center. Folks, I can assure you that there are FREQUENTLY more calls pending than there are officers available to respond to them. If you have ever called 911 and wondered why it is taking so long for an officer to get to you, you can attest to what I am saying as true. The shortages are NOT just during non-peak hours. The majority of the shortages are during peak hours. Removing 11 more officers that could respond to calls means that our resources will be stretched even further. For example, the Traffic Unit will be losing 4 positions. For those that don't know what this means, here goes: The traffic unit officers respond to MOSTLY traffic calls. They're the ones looking for speeders, aggressive drivers, careless and reckless drivers, drivers who appear to be under the influence, etc. These traffic officers also respond to all accidents involving injuries. Having this group of officers available is invaluable for several reasons. First, it frees up the regular patrol units to respond to other calls - something I've already noted is thin even now. Second, if the traffic officers are in the area of a call where patrol units are responding and they are not busy, they respond to those calls as well. Having fewer traffic officers means that patrol units - already struggling with call load as it is - will be spread even thinner. At the heart of this annexation are a couple of very important concerns. First, the city of Wilmington is digging its hands into a cookie jar, even though the owners of that jar don't want them to, don't need them to, and have no say in stopping it. Second, the city annexed to increase their bottom line...while removing public safety positions. Hmmmm.....money vs. public safety....which do YOU think is the city council's priority? I will make it my mission to do everything in my power, for as long as it takes, to make sure that the voting public does not forget about the Arrogant Six. I will stop only when those 6 are no longer in public office.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse

Operating Budget in the RED, now this news... **City council agrees to $5 million convention facility expansion*** Thanks to construction bids that came in under budget, City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to spend nearly $5 million to add 12,000 square feet to the downtown structure and make it a “green” building. But city project manager Steve Bridges said the added cost won’t push the center beyond its $59.3 million budget, which includes design and other pre-construction costs. WHEN is the next TEA PARTY FOLKS!? Have you as a "citizen" had enough YET!?

Tea Party?

Do you think that they even recognized your tea party as anything beyond minor entertainment? Historically, the Boston Tea Party, like yours, accomplished very little beyond motivating a small portion of the masses.... ...Lexington and Concord, on the other hand, got George III's attention.

Folks,,

I DO NOT want MONEY for pay, nor am I a "Developer". I'm against "Crony" Money in Wilmington. I'm against corruption. I'm against crony capitalism. I'm against unconstitutional laws. I'm against the a few members of real estate running OUR County/City.... I'm against high taxes.. Agenicies taking over what the CITIZENS of the County/City are objecting too being cramed down thier throats,ie: forced annexation. Meanwhile,wasting Wilmington tax-payers dollars on "Hoopla".... ie: Convention Center... Would you vote for ME? "IF" I had a "record" ?, Though had a heart of being " FOR THE PEOPLE" "We the People"???? Honesty & Transparency?

Wilmington tax-payers dollars?????

on "hoopla?" How do you figure the convention center is "hoopla???" It has absolutely nothing at all to do with taxpayer dollars, unless you are a resident of one of our local hotels. Have you even looked at the city budget? This is the biggest project in our area and one of the few actually putting hundreds of people to work!

Well....

Well, they passed it. What a surprise!!!! A bunch of hypocrites who spend and spend without regard to what the citizens actually want!! The same people you voted to steal from tonight, will hopefully stand up strong against you and remove you from office next city elections!!! Hopefully, the state gets it right and allows the affected citizens to vote after this year. Forced annexation is wrong and they know it and that is why they were rushing to get it done!!!!

And then what? Elect other

And then what? Elect other 'representatives' that will act exactly the same? That will then scratch the back of those same out-of-work politicans that put us in this situation in the first place, with no-bid construction and building contracts. And when they've pushed the taxpayers as far as their greedy hands can, vote them out for another group who will tax and spend and steal as much as they can, before they get voted out for more theives? When does it end? When has 'voting out the hypocrites' ever solved anything? Is this our only solution?

Then What?

So you propose to re-elect the same council members? You must want more of the same! The answer is to make sure you know WHO you are electing. If you are tired of your city council's actions, make sure NOT to keep electing real estate brokers and realtors. Their goal is growth at any cost, because that is how they (or some member of their families) get paid.

Clean House

I agree, we need to stop voting in these money grabbing politicians. Our city is going broke and they are spending it without a care. They should not be paid anything to be a city councilperson.
With this annexation people on a fixed budget may have to give up the home that they have worked hard for. I do not understand why this was not voted on instead of forced upon. Our ELECTED officials need to GO. Research the politicians before you elect them. Give our Mayor a HUGE cut in pay with no benefits, being Wilmington is in the RED and let him wait until we are back in the BLACK at least a year before he can get a 2% pay increase. Saffo doesn't mind hurting our pockets so we should destroy his.