Council President Ernest “Trippi” Congo and Wilmington City Council Offer Response to Mayor’s 2022 Budget Address

Wilmington – It has been one year since the pandemic closed schools and businesses and forced our community to shelter in place. The mandatory isolation of households combined with the rising medical crisis sent our economy into dramatic free fall that has caused irreparable harm to adults and children alike. Living through this once-in-a-century challenge has been daunting, to say the least. And then came November 2020 when we all – across Wilmington and throughout Delaware – were buoyed by the election of the First Son of the First State to the highest office on the land. President Joe Biden assumed office in January and has delivered the help we all desperately need in The American Rescue Plan. This stimulus plan includes $1.4 Billion for state and local government in Delaware alone. Wilmington will receive roughly $55 Million to help our residents and businesses recover from what have been very dark nights.

“We in Council believe it is important to focus attention on that which unites us rather than that which divides,” said Council President Ernest “Trippi” Congo. “Our goal like that of the Mayor is to significantly improve the quality of life for city-based residents and businesses. Wilmington City Council is in strong agreement with Mayor Purzycki around the areas of priority for the city.”

“I support the Mayor in his vision and Council President Congo’s insightful support for quality of life issues,” said Council Member Linda Gray, 1st District. “I truly want the Council to step up and speak up for the vulnerable population of Wilmington. We must take an active role in working with the Executive branch and each other for the good of our City. We need to insure that Federal Rescue Funds will be invested in the health, housing and economic well-being of Wilmington Citizens.”

In 2022, we must invest attention and resources in these key areas:
Housing – housing reform and neighborhood stabilization,
Gun violence – intervention and prevention, and
Education.

“I’m enjoying being a new Council Member, learning the process, asking questions and figuring out how to bring more benefits to the people of the 2nd District and across the City,” said Council Member Shane’ Darby, 2nd District. “I’m excited to work on getting the housing action program fully funded.”

Council Member Zanthia Oliver, 3rd District, said, “There is much agreement between Council and the administration but we have a difficult task ahead of us. It will take collaboration and public engagement to build a budget that reflects the needs and desires of Wilmington residents. I look forward to the upcoming budget hearings and working with the Mayor on this important matter.”

City Council further advocates for the inclusion of the revitalization of parks and health literacy and equity as areas of priority. It is expected that by July 4 all Americans want to receive the vaccine will have had the doses by that days. The utilization of public space namely City parks will increase by ten-fold. The measures taken to restrict access to parks and their amenities must be redressed and the parks must be restored and revitalized. As mentioned, households will soon be emerging from isolation requirements and are being encouraged to engage in outdoor activities to help regain a sense of normalcy. City parks therefore need to be safe spaces with modern equipment and safety precautions/measures/safety equipment to protect our children and our seniors – among the City’s greatest assets.

“I am excited to hear that in the Mayor’s Budget Address there will be funds to preserve and improve our neighborhoods, funding to support year-round employment for our young people and for the Mayor amplifying his voice with a call for Wilmington to lead the effort to improve the education of City children and supporting a future traditional City high school,” said Council Member Michelle Harlee, 4th District. “Lastly, its also important to underscore that we are building more affordable housing in the 4th District and through-out the City and a clean team effort to keep it beautiful!”

“I cannot wait to work with the Mayor and my fellow Council Members around neighborhood stabilization efforts,” said Council Member Bregetta Fields, 5th District. “These efforts are vital to prospective and current Wilmington residents.”

This Proposed General Fund Budget total is approximately $172M, up $8.7M over prior year’s budget, and uses $5.6M of the Tax Stabilization Fund to balance the budget. City Council will do its due diligence to provide the checks and balances with the budget process, which is one of the primary charter mandates of the Council, “It shall be the duty of the council, at least thirty (30) days before the end of the fiscal year, to adopt the annual operating budget ordinance for the next fiscal year.”

Council Member Yolanda McCoy, 6th District, said “I am thankful for the Mayor’s emphasis on parks and neighborhoods. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to redevelop and revitalize our public spaces.”

“On Council we will continue to work with the administration to find new and innovative ways for us to come out of the pandemic a stronger and better Wilmington,” said Council Member and Finance Committee Chair Chris Johnson, 7th District. “The hope is that the additional federal funds can be used to not only plug short term holes, but create long-term investments back into Wilmington’s best assets – it’s people and it’s neighborhoods.”

The City has an old and aging water sewer infrastructure system, and Mayor is proposing a modest 3% water rate increase and 2% stormwater rate increase (this equates to $1.75 monthly increase based upon 5/8 inch meter and 4,000 gallons water consumption), while also using some of the Water Tax Stabilization Fund. The Council will do its fiduciary responsibility to review all water sewer cost to ascertain if a water rate increase is viable during a pandemic. Wilmington City Council applauds Mayor Purzycki’s proposal of no property tax increase.

“The Mayor outlined great points of prioritization,” said Council Member Nathan Field, 8th District. “I look forward to digging into the budget with my council colleagues and the administration”

Council Member Rysheema Dixon, At-Large, said “Thank you to the Mayor for his remarks this evening. I look forward to hearing more about the American Rescue funding of $55 Million that the City is in position to receive and how we can fill our gaps and improve our City overall. I loved hearing the commitment to educating our students in the City and making a true investment in our young people. I can’t wait to dive deeper into our budget hearings starting next month to examine ways we can help our residents during this time and remain financially stable.”

“Now more than ever we as the leadership of the City must work together and be diligent on passing a responsible but also thoughtful and compassionate budget,” said Council Member Maria Cabrera, At-Large. “With the federal assistance from the Recovery plan we hope to invest in helping individuals, small businesses and all affected by this once in a century emergency disaster!”

Wilmington City Council with a strong and proud voices wants to echo the Mayor’s extension of gratitude toward to the front-line workers and City employees who continued to work during the early days of the pandemic through now. The sacrifices of some have benefited many and we are gratefully. Thank you.

“This is the time for all elected officials to set aside our differences and work as a solid unit to move our City forward with this once in a lifetime chance,” said Council Member Loretta Walsh, At-Large.

“Without a doubt, Council’s annual vetting of the budget is one of our biggest responsibilities, said Council Member James Spadola, At Large. “I encourage the public to attend the upcoming budget hearings in April as the finance committee hears from the City’s department leaders on how our tax dollars are potentially being spent.”

“Wilmington has bright days ahead,” said Council President Congo. “I look forward to working with my fellow Council Members and the Mayor to implement these priorities and to reinvent our great city.”

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