Saffo says 2010 was a good year despite a tight budget


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Amidst a struggling economy and a tight budget, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says he’s happy with the state of the city. There’s no doubt the city of Wilmington has had to do more with less, but Saffo says his team of city employees has helped make the Port City a great city.

Saffo says when it comes to dealing with limited funds, the city has no choice but to prioritize.

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“The important things in life are not always what you want but what you need,” said Saffo.

Like many other cities in the country, 2010 consisted of investing money in the right projects for Wilmington.

“Even though we’ve had to hold the line and do the best we could financially we’ve had to make a certain amount of improvements to our community and infrastructure especially,” said Saffo.

2010 was a busy year for the city. From tearing up an old water and sewer system with the Front Street Improvement to building new parks like the Dram Tree boat ramp to finishing the Wilmington Convention Center $4 million dollars under budget Saffo says he’s quite pleased.

“Something that I am most proud of is the fact that we created hundreds of jobs while this center was being built in a time jobs were very precious to our community,” he said.

Short term jobs were created for some projects, but there’s no sugar coating the fact the city was hit hard by the economic recession. Saffo says the city cut back on more than 30 services and eliminated 60 city positions over the past two years. Those who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs have gone without a raise.

“The questions becomes is that we have cut a lot of things out that are important and we have been really hard on our employees so can we put any of that back and keep it balanced?” asked Laura Padgett, a Wilmington City Councilwoman.

Wilmington City Council managed to keep a balanced budget for 2010 and Saffo says there is a good chunk of change left in the savings account. The numbers are not in the negatives, but the city will face yet another challenging year. City council hopes to invest in more projects in 2011 that will help make living in Wilmington a little more enjoyable for everyone.

“In hard times people have places to go and do things with their family and that’s important,” said Padgett. “They enhance the community for the people that live here and they also make it attractive to others.”

Saffo is excited about the future of 2011 because of the film industry. Right now there’s four productions filming in Wilmington and that’s helping to bring in millions of dollars and employ 350 people locally. Saffo says a fifth movie will start filming in mid-February.