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Wilmington leaders continue budget discussion

READ MORE: Wilmington leaders continue budget discussion
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Time is ticking for Wilmington City Council members to figure out how they're going to make up a nearly $6 million budget shortfall. Council members met today at Wilmington Police headquarters to talk about the recommended plan.

The city manager recommends a 3.75-cent property tax increase to help offset the $5.7 million deficit.Based on the discussions at today's meeting, it sounds like city council members are leaning toward the recommended increase. Right now, along with the recommended increase, the city manager has proposed reducing construction and maintenance costs and eliminating another 18 positions. City employees will not receive any pay raises and their health insurance costs will increase.

Mayor Bill Saffo says if the city continues making cuts, it's going to start cutting into the bone, which is public safety. City council member Laura Padgett suggested approving the increase and revisiting the budget in six months instead of 12.

"I know that the sales tax revenue at the state level is beginning to come up," Padgett said. "I think people can actually go to the mall and see people with bags in their hands, and that indicates that the consumer is beginning to buy again, so I'm a little optimistic that in six months or so we may have some better numbers."

Council members hope leftover federal stimulus money will bleed over into next year and trickle down to the state and city level. Council members also talked about the parks bond voters approved in 2006.

It can only be used for parks and recreation spending.

Laura Padgett suggested using the money to build a competitive swimming pool, open to the public.

Council members also plan to discuss payment plans for sweepstakes cafe owners at their meeting the second week of June, when the 90-day moratorium on sweepstakes cafes expires.

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