The balanced budget includes no property tax increase and a 4% water/sewer rate increase; there are no changes from the original budget proposal submitted by the Mayor to Council in mid-March
A Fiscal Year 2019 Operating and Water/Sewer Budget was approved tonight by Wilmington City Council by a vote of 9 to 4. The approval follows several weeks of review by Council of the budget submitted by Mayor Mike Purzycki on March 15. There are no changes to the budget as submitted. Mayor Purzycki joined with City Council President Hanifa Shabazz tonight in thanking Council for its lengthy deliberations and also thanked the public for its interest in the adoption of a budget for the new fiscal year which begins on July 1, 2018.
Mayor Purzycki and Council President Shabazz said the new budget supports improved public safety efforts, neighborhood stabilization, economic development and employment, and ensuring that Wilmington is a clean and attractive City. They both pledged to continue working together to make Wilmington a more livable and appealing center of commerce, arts, culture, finance and technology.
“The new budget enables the City to provide the same or improved level of programs and services for citizens in the new fiscal year without the need for a tax increase,” said Mayor Purzycki. “We will, however, continue to be fiscally prudent because we are still looking at projected budget deficits on the horizon. We face tough choices, but as we work together with Council, I am confident we will overcome any obstacles to improving government efficiencies.”
“I am pleased my colleagues on Council saw the value of supporting a budget that clearly demonstrates the kind of collaboration between the Council and the Mayor’s office that our residents want to see,” said Council President Hanifa Shabazz. “Passage of this budget is also in line with the priorities outlined in our strategic planning process to move Wilmington forward.”
Mayor Purzycki and Council President Shabazz tonight thanked Council Finance Committee Chair Charles “Bud” Freel for skillfully steering the budget proposal through Council’s review process. Freel said the budget received a thorough review before being sent to Council for a final vote tonight. “We held a series of hearings to review budget requests and hear from the residents about what is important to them,” said Freel. “It’s a lean budget, but I’m happy we were still able to find funds to invest in our neighborhoods and programs.”
FY 2019 Operating and Water/Sewer Budget
The approved FY 2019 Operating Budget totals $162.3 million, which is an increase of 4.8%, or $7.4 million, over the current FY 2018 operating budget. There will be no property tax increase for the new fiscal year. The FY 2019 Water/Sewer/Stormwater Budget totals $75.4 million, which is an increase of 6.2%, or $4.4 million, over the current FY 2018 budget. The Mayor proposed and the Council approved a 4% increase in water and sewer rates that was recommended by the independent Water/Sewer Citizens Advisory Council. The Mayor and Council President said the new budget also approves a reduction of the minimum usage charge on a quarterly bill from 8,000 gallons to 6,000 gallons, based on revised historical usage data, which will help reduce the bills for senior citizens and smaller family households.
Improving Public Safety
Mayor Purzycki and Council President Shabazz said the passage of the budget will support ongoing efforts to reduce crime in Wilmington, especially gun-related incidents. Based on crime data for January 1, 2018 through May 7, and 2018 versus 2017 year-to-date statistics, shooting incidents in Wilmington are at a reduced level not seen in almost a decade. The City leaders applauded Police Chief Robert Tracy’s focus on community engagement to win the trust of citizens as well as his policing reforms, which include intelligence-led policing, directed patrols and instituting the CompStat methodology—all of which are producing encouraging results.
Shooting incidents have dropped 61% over last year, or 25 incidents this year versus 64 in 2017. There have been 43 fewer shooting victims so far this year—27 this year versus 70 in 2017—for a 61% reduction. Including all categories— murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and auto theft—crime in Wilmington in 2018 is down 8% thus far over 2017.
The Mayor and Council President also applauded the work of the Wilmington Community Advisory Committee (WCAC) which grew from the effort of the Council President to have the Centers for Disease Control look at Wilmington’s gun-related violence from a different lens. Today, the WCAC is promoting community-based social service programs that direct young people into positive activities and career choices and away from negative influences.
Other Programs Supported by the Approved FY 2019 Budget
The Mayor said the new budget will support the City’s continuing efforts to improve service to citizens. Among the service enhancements are:
- An updated Public Safety Camera System that will enable the Wilmington Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) to use the technical resources of 80 neighborhood and business video cameras to monitor and prevent crime and to provide more information to officers responding to a crime in progress. The new system includes the latest in wireless technology to elevate and improve Wilmington’s nearly 20-year-old video safety camera system.
- A 311 Call Center by the end of the current calendar year to provide a more coordinated system for receiving and resolving citizen questions, concerns or complaints, and to allow citizens to track the City’s handling of their concerns via the City’s website.
- Twenty four new police officers will graduate in June from the 98th Wilmington Police Academy. The new budget supports their salaries and the various law enforcement tools they need to do their jobs.
- The renovation of City fire stations. Four fire stations – Stations #2, #3, #4 and #6, all built before 1982 – are being renovated, including replacing or updating the mechanical systems, updating the sleeping quarters to include accommodating female firefighters, and updating bathrooms, offices, and kitchens.
- A digital plans development submission and review system, expected to be implemented by the fall, to greatly expedite the review and approval of major and minor development projects. The new system will connect the Departments of Planning, Public Works, Licenses and Inspections and Fire Marshal’s Office so they can provide a more thorough and coordinated plans review process
- A new, state-of-the-art LED street lighting system throughout Wilmington, which could be activated by the end of 2018.
- Wilmington’s Beautiful City initiative for a cleaner, more attractive City. Special attention is being given to City gateways and neighborhoods by the Public Works Department.
- Wilmington’s government and its citizens have joined together to develop a citywide, comprehensive plan that will guide growth and development across the city for the next decade. A draft of the plan, known as Wilmington 2028 and being managed by City Planning Director Herb Inden and his departmental team, should be available for public review this fall.
- Approximately 1,000 new housing units are under construction or planned in Wilmington, including in the Downtown District, along Pennsylvania Avenue near Union Street and on both the Christina and Brandywine rivers.
- Three new hotels have either been built or are planned in Wilmington. The Marriott Residence Inn is open at 13th and Market Streets and the other two hotels will be built on the Christina Riverfront.
- Soon, Wilmington will welcome the NBA G League team, Delaware Blue Coats, to their new 140,000 square foot home on the Christina Riverfront being built by the Philadelphia 76ers. Most importantly, the new facility will serve as a community youth sports facility.