Mayor Purzycki’s Fiscal Year 2020 Operating Budget is Approved by City Council
No property tax increase for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 and no reduction in city programs or services; the water/sewer/stormwater rate for city customers will increase by 3.8%; there is no increase for county customers
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki’s five-year financial stabilization plan that is controlling projected budget deficits, replenishing the City’s cash reserves and aligning expenditures with departmental strategic goals, remains intact tonight. Wilmington City Council has approved the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget which requires no increase in property taxes and keeps city programs and services operating at current levels. The budget was approved by a vote of 8 to 1 with four members absent. Council’s vote tonight was a reconsideration of last Thursday’s budget tally when the proposal was defeated by one vote.
The Mayor said the budget will enable the City to fund programs that will continue to make Wilmington a safer, cleaner and more welcoming City for residents, businesses and visitors alike. Mayor Purzycki said Administration goals are to continue to reduce crime through improved police and community engagement, to solidify the City’s financial base even further, repair and protect City infrastructure—including its water, sewer and parks systems—and to increase the public’s trust in government through more efficient government operations.
The City’s new FY 2020 operating budget totals $167.4 million, an increase of 3.1%, or $5.1 million, over the current FY 2019 operating budget. Council also approved the new Water and Sewer budget, which funds the City’s water utility. The water utility’s multiple year plan supports clean water production and sewer services, and provides for revenue for planned infrastructure maintenance and improvements as well as emergencies. The water/sewer budget includes a 3.8% overall rate increase for City customers ($2.21 increase per month for customers using an average of 4,000 gallons of water) and freezes the current rate for customers who reside in New Castle County. The Mayor said the decision to include no increase for County customers is due to a long-standing disparity in service delivery charges for city and county customers. Mayor Purzycki said he is committed to developing a plan that reflects a more accurate cost of service rate system for City and County customers.
The Mayor tonight thanked those Council Members who supported the budget, especially Council President Hanifa Shabazz and Council Finance Committee Chair Charles “Bud” Freel, for providing informative Council budget hearings. The Mayor said he is looking forward to his Administration accomplishing more with Council’s assistance in the new fiscal year to improve government operations and the lives of City residents.
The Mayor said his Administration’s two-year accomplishments for the administration include:
- A drop in gun-related and overall crime as well as improved community and police engagement;
- Improvements to City fire stations and to Wilmington’s only community center—the William “Hicks” Anderson Center;
- The Baynard Stadium and Eden Park improvement projects, which are currently underway;
- The HBCU College Fair, which has made college possible for more than 1,000 local high school students;
- Important environmental advances, such as the South Wilmington Wetland Project, which will launch shortly, and the EPA study of the former Diamond Salvage site in Northeast Wilmington;
- A continuing push for revisions to the City Housing Code to stabilize neighborhoods and improve the living conditions of renters;
- The completion of a new Comprehensive Plan for Wilmington that will guide the City’s growth and development for the next 10 years;
- The completion of an Administration-wide Strategic Plan that, for the first time, aligns administration initiatives and funding decisions to measurable departmental goals and objectives;
- New government efficiency and transparency efforts such as the soon to debut OpenGov platform for public viewing of operating and capital expense reports and other department information and statistics; a one-stop 311 Call Center set to launch in July for more efficient resolution of citizen inquiries and concerns; the OnBase online submission and review process for small and large development projects; and the recent implementation of CityStat, an internal government management process that uses data to hold department directors and employees accountable for performance goals centered on the improvement of the delivery of services to citizens.
- A Citywide LED lighting project involving the installation of LED smart street lights in all neighborhoods, business districts and along gateway travel corridors. The new lighting project, which will help make Wilmington a brighter and smarter City, will start soon and is expected to be completed within two years.
- Phase one of Wilmington’s first major Creative Placemaking Project—Urban Artists Exchange—is currently under construction at the former mounted police stables on Walnut Street. Eight individual art-making and teaching studios and one group space will harness the creativity, energy and knowledge-sharing of local artists. The studios are scheduled to be available for occupation by artists later this summer. The public will be invited to view art-making in progress and to attend regularly-scheduled exhibits. The Urban Artists Exchange shares the one-acre Walnut Street property with the Urban Bike Project.
- Progress on a new property tax reassessment initiative that would remedy the current unfair property tax assessment system operated by the New Castle County government;
Mayor Purzycki said the new FY 2020 budget supports his Administration’s key goals of improving public safety, furthering neighborhood stabilization, supporting new employment opportunities, strengthening economic development and creating a cleaner, brighter and more attractive City. The Mayor said he remains focused on Wilmington as a more livable and appealing center for commerce, arts, culture, finance and technology, and he restated comments he made in March about his vision for Wilmington when he presented the budget to Council.
“My vision for Wilmington is that it becomes known, before anything else, as a just city. A just City means that we treat all neighborhoods and members of our community with equal respect. It means above all, that people with problems believe that someone is listening and that somebody cares. A just city commits to spread the wealth across race and class. It opens doors to employment and opportunity. A just city insists on clean and adequate housing for all its residents, attractive parks for its children to play in, and properly funded schools for our leaders of tomorrow. A just city keeps its streets clean of trash, which can signal to residents, and especially children, that someone cares about them and the neighborhood they live in. A just city celebrates the lives of those whose deeds in history have too often been forgotten. A just city opens doors to college to those for whom higher education is an unattainable dream. And, in a just city, our corporate community stands shoulder to shoulder with us, helping us to reach our goals. To achieve this vision, we need a certain economic prosperity and financial stability to allow us to fund the programs necessary to build our city. We cannot separate the developers and investors from the rest of us. We must be in this together. All of us together are vital to our City’s growth and survival.”