Wilmington City Council Approves the City’s FY2023 Budget

Thursday, May 19, 2022
Wilmington City Council Approves the City’s FY2023 Budget The approved budget includes a 6.0% Property Tax increase and a 5% Water Sewer rate increase for City residents
Mayor Mike Purzycki presented the Proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget to Council on March 17, 2022, which included a 7.5% Property Tax rate increase and a 5% Water Sewer rate increase. Today, Wilmington City Council approved the City’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) General Fund 2023 budget. Council voted 10 -Yeas and 3 -Nays to adopt Sub. #1 to Ordinance #22-016.OPERATING BUDGET VOTESCity Council President Trippi Congo – No1st District Council Member Linda Gray – Yes2nd District Council Member Shané Darby – No3rd District Council Member Zanthia Oliver – Yes4th District Council Member Michelle Harlee – Yes5th District Council Member Bregetta Fields – Yes6th District Council Member Yolanda McCoy – Yes7th District Council Member Chris Johnson – Yes8th District Council Member Nathan Field – YesAt-Large Council Member Maria D. Cabrera – YesAt-Large Council Member Albert “Al” Mills – YesAt-Large Council Member James Spadola – NoAt-Large Council Member Loretta Walsh – YesThe FY2023 Approved Budget total $176,865,305, which is up $4.1M over the prior year’s budget. This budget includes a 6.0% Property Tax Rate, which equates to $2.6M in additional revenue for the City and an increase of $41.76 (or $3.48 per month) to the annual property tax bill for the average homeowner in the City of Wilmington. Council held public budget hearings for all City departments during the month of April, which Council scrutinized all budgetary requests.Finance and Economic Development Committee Chairman Chris Johnson acknowledged that Mayor Purzycki and his team, as well as Council Colleagues, came together to have a balanced budget passed tonight which is a charter mandate and one of the primary responsibilities of the City Council prior to 30 days of the close of the fiscal year. I’m proud we were able to pass a budget tonight that both signifies the City’s commitment to doubling down on neighborhood revitalization and also creative solutions to public safety,” said Finance Chairman Johnson. “As a City, we still face many of the long-term structural  effects of Covid, however, I believe as a City we are poised to continue rising above and building back a stronger Wilmington.” To help balance the FY2023 Budget, $12M in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds were used for revenue replacements, which helped to fill the budgetary gap and lead to a $9.5M budget surplus. In addition, 15 positions were deleted from the budget, inclusive of 7 vacant Wilmington Police Officer positions. The creation of a new Land Use and Planning Department was a net neutral change that will provide residents and businesses with an efficient process regarding permitting, plan review, and land development, which will make our City a more business friendly City.“I am pleased that we were able to pass the budget with a lower property tax than what was originally proposed,” said 6th District Council Member Yolanda McCoy.The FY2023 Water Sewer Fund Budget totals $82,144,457, which is up $2.5M over the prior year’s budget and includes a 5% Water Sewer Rate increase that equates to an additional $2.35 per monthly increase to residents’ water bill based upon 4,000 gallons usage. The City will be submitting requests to the State of Delaware for Infrastructure Bill Funds for various water sewer capital projects, which will help to reduce debt service and capital costs to the City’s Water Sewer Fund.This budget was not an easy task by no means, as Council realizes the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our City and the world. “I am pleased and relieved that Council and the Administration worked diligently to present a budget that addresses many of the very difficult problems developed during the major revenue reduction faced this year due to Covid,” said Finance and Economic Development Committee Member and At-Large Council Member Loretta Walsh.When the Mayor presented the FY2023 Budget back on March 17th, it included a 7.5% Property Tax Rate increase; however, Council negotiated the rate down to 6.0%. “This was a very challenging budget this year,” said 5th District Council Member Bregetta Fields. “It required a lot of negotiation with the Administration to get to a budget compromise, but I believe this budget will move the City forward considering the declining revenues.”As part of budget negotiations with the Administration, there was an agreement to use more ARPA funds for revenue replacement to help balance the budget in future years, as well as a formal action plan to have discussions with the Governor and State Legislators for assistance with future revenue enhancements to assist with structural deficits.The budgetary priorities for Council are inclusive of Public Safety (gun violence prevention program, citizens oversight review board), NeighborhoodsEducationEconomic Development, and Parks to name a few. As a result of the Council’s efforts, this budget includes funding for an operational audit of the Wilmington Police Department, continued funding for the Citizens Oversight Review Board, deletion of one new position (Executive Director of the William Hicks Anderson Community Center), and use of more ARPA funds to balance the budget in future years to avoid double-digit property tax rate increases.  This Council applauds the Mayor and his team regarding this budget, but realizes there is much more work to do to generate new revenue enhancements to help maintain the key charter mandates that our City is required to provide. While I do understand our city’s financial shortcomings, I could not support a 6% property tax increase for our residents,” said City Council President Trippi Congo. “I believe we should have used more ARPA funds to offset this year’s budget  shortfall. This is their primary intended use. For the upcoming years, we need to continue the conversation with our governor and state legislators about the urgency and necessity to infuse  Wilmington with funding to make sure that Delaware’s greatest city continues to thrive. We can not continue to tax our way out of this dilemma. As local elected officials we need to have some difficult conversations about our path forward.“This budget included working in solidarity with many of my council colleagues to assure our city budget is on more solid ground by ascertaining department budgets, spending plans, and assured we are solvent,” said Finance and Economic Development Committee Vice Chair and 4th District Council Member Michelle Harlee. “We looked for possible elimination of redundancies and opportunities for our taxpayers that are aligned with other cities our size. There were hard decisions that needed to be made, but City Council worked together with the Administration in the best interest of the citizens of Wilmington.” At-Large Council Member James Spadola was among those who voted against the operating budget. “I appreciate everyone’s work on this, but I am unable to support it,” he said. “I’ve had long-standing concerns about the property tax increase as well as some of the vacant positions. There was a little movement from the Mayor’s side of the house in terms of vacant positions, but there were none on City Council’s side which I think is super important because I think we need to get our house in order, specifically with WITN. We have declining franchise fees year over year, and eventually, with a slight legislation change that franchise fees could be used to fund the general fund. So, we are missing an opportunity to delete some of the vacant positions in WITN.”
MEDIA INQUIRIES:Yesenia TaverasDirector of Communications, Wilmington City CouncilOffice: (302)576-2585Mobile: (302)757-5748Email: ytaveras@wilmingtonde.govCity Council Website: www.wilmingtoncitycouncil.com 
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