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Council discusses next year's budget

City Council met Monday, April 6 to begin discussions on how to fill a $6.6 million shortfall in next year's budget.

The city has reduced its budget by 8.6% for this year. Because the city began these reductions last fall, any drastic cuts such as staff layoffs or elimination of services have been avoided so far. However, the city is facing more significant shortfalls in next year's budget, so cuts will need to be made when developing the 2009-10 budget.

Preliminary budget figures already include 5% reductions across the board, but even with those cuts, the city is still facing a shortfall of more than $6.6 million. Possibilties in the 5% reductions include options such as some cuts in staffing, the closure of one fire station and a reduction in the Police Traffic Unit. At the work session, Council also looked at how additional across-the-board cuts of 10-15% would impact city services, as well as the impact of potential one-year cuts in employee pay or benefits.

The city is also aggressively looking at ways to increase its revenues, including voluntary annexations, new economic stimulus opportunities such as the convention center and the northern downtown development and optimizing federal and state stimulus programs and other grants.

No decisions about any of these possible reductions have been made. City staff will prepare a recommended budget to be presented at the May 5 City Council meeting. An adopted budget must be in place by June 30.

Wilmington City Manager Sterling Cheatham says, "We are facing a daunting challenge as we develop our budget for next year. There are no easy options, but we will do the best we can to continue to provide core services for our citizens."

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