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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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