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Mayor to give ‘State of the City’ address Monday

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Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo will deliver to the public his annual “State of the City” address Monday evening at City Hall.

Mayor Bill Saffo. Photo source: City of Wilmington

“The mayor will review some of the city’s major accomplishments from last year and will also touch on upcoming goals for 2013,” said a bulletin from the city’s communications office.

Saffo will begin his address at 5:30 p.m.

Residents who cannot attend may view the speech live on Time Warner Cable channel 8 or on the city’s website, wilmingtonnc.gov.

The address comes as the city prepares to develop its budget for fiscal 2013-14 (which will begin July 1) and plans to administer repairs to the Water Street parking deck, which officials say the city will demolish at some point in the next few years to make way for new development or greenspace. (More information)

Another substantial project in the works is a sweeping change for downtown’s Riverfront Park. With construction possible just a year from now, the plan entails the removal of the elevated, wooden riverside walkway at Market and Water streets, the placement of a decorative new water sculpture in place of the park’s currently defunct fountain, new trees, bench-height granite planters and a regrading of Water Street to create a surface that would be level with the surrounding park. (More information)

The city has also recently rolled out a new schedule for curbside recycling pickup designed to save about $220,000 annually in manpower costs. (More information)

Other, major city goals include securing a private hotel to go alongside the city-built Wilmington Convention Center. Earlier this month, Wilmington City Council granted a second extension to a memorandum of understanding with hotel developer Harmony Hospitality Inc., which says it is waiting on federal processes to open the project to foreign investments. The group hopes to develop an Embassy Suites adjacent to the convention center on Nutt Street downtown. (More information)

A massive prospect for the city that died in 2012: the construction of a downtown baseball stadium for an Atlanta Braves minor-league team. The $37 million project would have brought a 2.5-cent increase to the city’s property tax rate (currently at 45 cents per $100 of value), though proponents argued it would repay the city in terms of economic development, jobs and quality-of-life improvements. Wilmington voters in a November bond referendum shot the plan down 70-30. (More information)

As for the city’s development future, it’s likely “inward and upward” since the N.C. General Assembly in 2012 banned involuntary annexation as a tool cities could use to expand their corporate limits. Wilmington is at least 80 percent built-out and confined between waterways, meaning new tax base may have to come through infill and redevelopment of existing properties that are currently underused or out of service. City staffers are exploring regulatory flexibilities to encourage such projects. A staff presentation to City Council in December claimed the fiscal payback on service costs with infill development is five to 10 times faster than with outlying, rural development. (More information)

Officials say the city’s finances are “healthy,” with a balanced $86 million general fund budget, a five-year plan to repair city roads and public facilities and an AA+ bond rating officials hope to maintain in the new fiscal year, to begin in July.

At a briefing in December, city finance staffers said the city has more savings on hand than is generally needed, which they asserted was good policy. The city’s fund balance equals about 28 percent of the general fund’s budgeted spending while the actual goal is 15-20 percent.

That 28-percent level represents $23.7 million in savings, a sign of recovery from the recession years, Finance Director Debra Mack Mack said. In fiscal 2003, the city’s fund balance sat at $24 million, she noted. Three years later, during the economic downturn, the level fell to $18 million. In fiscal 2009, it was $19 million; and in fiscal 2010, less than $17 million. (More information)

The city, which has recently re-instated a legislative liaison, says it plans to work with legislators in the new General Assembly to protect and grow local revenue sources as part of the widely discussed possibility of sweeping tax reform that might, most notably, feature new consumption and service taxes to replace the state’s personal income tax. (More information)

For the official announcement about Saffo’s “State of the City” address, click here.

Contact Ben Brown at ben.b@hometownwilmington.com or (910) 772-6335. On Twitter: @benbrownmedia

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Posted by on January 27, 2013. Filed under Latest News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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