Wilmington budget address runs down opportunities, challenges for coming year

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki yesterday gave his Fiscal Year 2019 budget presentation and state of the city address.

The speech combined an optimistic outlook for the city with urgent calls to address the city’s most pressing problems.

Under positive developments, Purzycki highlighted the one thousand rental units and three hotels under construction, including the Marriot Residence opening next week. He also recognized the shifting nature of business and employment in Wilmington.

“While some of our traditional employers are contracting in size, smaller employers are growing and see Wilmington as a place to build their businesses,” he said.

He called out Stitch House Brewery, which opened in March, and the 76ers training center coming to the Riverfront as examples of recent gains for the city.

As for challenges, Purzycki said the $54 million deficit continues to impede the city’s ability to provide necessary services and capital improvements. Among the most pressing concerns, he said, are aging infrastructure and substandard rental housing.

The FY 2019 budget has expenditures of $162 million, up $7.4 million from last year, according to Purzycki. Much of the increase comes from $2.7 million in debt service and $2.6 million from a contract settlement with the police union.

Purzycki spent a significant portion of the address discussing the issue of property taxes. He said a slew of recent appeals to property value assessments in New Castle County have led to lost revenue for the city.

“We will work with the county on achieving a result that protects the city treasury, but if we are not able to do so, we will be forced to seek protection of the courts,” Purzycki said. “In the end, a full reassessment of all county properties is the correct path.”

New Castle County last conducted a reassessment 35 years ago.

In addition, Purzycki listed off some of the projects and initiatives taking place in 2019, including the launch of an Open Government information sharing platform, a switch to LEDs for street lights, and the continued beta testing of a 311 call center.

“It is often said that a budget is an expression of our values or – stated another way – our goals. I suspect that if all of us sat down and wrote down our goals for the city, there would be little difference of opinion,” Purzycki said. “We all want clean, safe and prosperous neighborhoods, we want a strong economy, we want jobs, clean parks and a city government that runs well.”

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