Council narrowly approves 2018 budget for Wilmington that contains 7.5% property tax hike

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A compromise Fiscal Year 2018 City budget, which Mayor Mike Purzycki and Council President Hanifa Shabazz reached agreement on earlier this week, was narrowly approved by the Wilmington City Council. The budget totals $154.9 million.

The budget fell short of Purzycki’s goal of dealing with a long-term budget deficit, but makes progress in that area, according to the mayor.

Purzycki, Shabazz and Council Finance Chair Charles “Bud” Freel had been working to come up with common ground on the budget which raises property taxes 7.5 percent and water bills by 4.1 percent.

Purzycki highlighted some of the elements of the operating budget approved tonight by City Council:

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  • It eliminates a $2 million projected budget deficit for next fiscal year and helps to mitigate, but does not eliminate, large budget deficits for Fiscal Years 2019, 2020 and 2021
  • It allows the City to deal with a projected decrease of $920,000 in the city wage tax next year, a projected increase of $701,000 in overtime costs for police and fire, and a projected $1.2 million increase in employee and retiree health care benefits
  • It reduces the size of government by eliminating 29 vacant positions for an annual savings of $2.5 million
  • It requires a 7.5 percent property tax increase to balance the budget. For a property with an assessed value of $50,000, the annual property tax will increase by $70 a year, and the tax on a property assessed at $100,000 would increase by $140 a year, or $11.67 a month.
  • It reduces the projected 2018 budget surplus to $2.7 million versus the $3.4 surplus projected in the Mayor’s original budget
  • Provides $386,000 for a 14-week complete fire training class (93rd Fire Academy) for the purpose of hiring additional firefighters and for the payment of overtime to firefighters during the training period
  • Provides $30,000 to allow the Fire Department to re-institute a Fire Explorers Program which educates young City residents about firefighting so they develop interest in becoming firefighters
  • Supplies $70,000 in additional safety equipment for firefighters — equipment which is not eligible to be purchased through the City’s Capital Lease Program
  • Authorizes $125,000 so the City can develop a required citywide program to bring Wilmington into compliance with requirements of the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Appropriates $69,000 to repay the federal government part of a 2008 Department of Justice grant the City received to upgrade communications equipment for the Police Department; an audit penalized the City for not following accounting procedures when, in order to leverage the funding, city grant money was given to the state which was also in the process of upgrading its police communications equipment

The approved water/sewer budget includes a 4 percent increase in the City’s water/sewer rate, but no increase in the City’s stormwater rate.

This rate increase is supported by the City’s independent Water and Sewer Citizens Advisory Commission (UCAB) which makes recommendations on utility matters.The new rate will result is a $1.81 monthly increase for a residential city water customer who uses 4,000 gallons of water per month.

Purzycki, who is the first Wilmington Chief Executive to propose a multi-year budget outline, said while the fiscal condition of the City is stable, Wilmington must re-invest in economic development and infrastructure, enhance government efficiency, control costs and eliminate projected budget deficits.

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