Wilmington City Council Amends the Mayor's FY 2014 Budget Plan

Posted on  05/13/2013 6:29 pm

Wilmington City Council President Theo Gregory announced today that Members of City Council have developed a balanced Fiscal Year 2014 budget which makes revisions to the budget proposal presented to Council in March by Mayor Dennis Williams. Council’s budget plans were discussed publicly this afternoon at the Council’s Finance Committee meeting. The President said while Council added no new spending to the overall budget, it did re-arrange approximately $1.4 million in expenditures to reflect programs and policies that were important to Council Members, to citizens and for the future governance of the City.

The Council’s plan restores funding for housing, new jobs and business growth—funding that Mayor Dennis Williams had proposed be cut and then used to balance his original budget proposal. Council’s plan also addresses public safety by providing start-up funding for a community crime reduction and public safety website; funding for a restructured trash and recycling collection program; and funding for a comprehensive study concerning the future structure and management of the City’s Water, Sewer and Stormwater Fund.

Mayor Williams proposed a 12% rate increase for citizens who receive water and sewer services from the City. Council did not alter that recommendation which it accepted as part of a multiple-year plan to stabilize the City’s Water, Sewer and Stormwater Fund. Council is, however, requesting that the Administration review the practice of not requiring City-owned properties and facilities that use City water to remit water usage fees to the City’s Water, Sewer and Stormwater Fund. Some Council Members feel that a water usage fee for City facilities should be made part of the Administration’s fiscal year budget proposal which would then produce an automatic annual transfer of funds from the General Fund to the Water, Sewer and Stormwater Fund to keep it solvent.

“Most of the Mayor’s original budget proposal is intact, but we revised the new fiscal year spending plan to better address important issues like jobs, public safety, youth, education and the environment, and to seek information that we can review with the Administration about the future governance and management of the City’s Water, Sewer and Stormwater Fund,” said Council President Theo Gregory. “Council Members have given each section of the budget careful review and consideration. The plan we are presenting is fiscally responsible, logical, fair and forward-thinking.”

The Council President said now that the Council’s Finance Committee has reviewed and approved the Council’s budget changes, he will bring the budget to the entire Council for a vote on Thursday night, May 16.

Council’s plan translates to a General Fund or Operating Budget total for Fiscal Year 2014 beginning July 1 of $145,565,676. Council’s plan will produce a projected budget surplus of approximately $108,000 which is the same surplus total originally projected by Mayor Williams.

Council’s amended budget plan also includes the following initiatives:

  • Restoration of $500,000 to the City’s Economic Development Strategic Fund which is used by the City’s Office of Economic Development to attract jobs and businesses to Wilmington and to help existing businesses grow and thrive.
  • $142,000 for the Economic Development Office’s Minority Business Development Program to provide business development loans for existing minority businesses or to assist a new business that is minority-owned.
  • $100,000 for the Wilmington Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO) which provides loans to small businesses in Wilmington that are growing but unable to secure financing from conventional financial institutions. WEDCO partners with a bank to provide a portion of the total funds needed or works directly with the borrower and provides the total funds needed for the project.
  • Restoration of $250,000 to the City Housing Strategic Fund which is used to support homeownership, rental housing projects and other housing-related and community and neighborhood building projects throughout the City.
  • $250,000 to enable the City Administration to move forward with a revised trash and recycling collection program covering both residential and commercial properties in Wilmington. Such a program would increase recycling rates, significantly reduce landfill costs by lowering the amount of trash deposited into the landfill and produce new revenue for the City.
  • $30,000 from the City’s Water and Sewer Fund to enable the Administration to authorize a comprehensive study of the City’s water and sewer utilities by the highly-regarded utility and finance management firm Raftelis. The study would provide recommendations to the City Administration, City Council and the Wilmington Water/Sewer Citizen Advisory Board about whether, for example, water and sewer operations should be managed as a separate unit of government with its own Director or Commissioner. Council Finance Committee Chair Charles “Bud” Freel urged during recent budget hearings that there be greater public accountability of the City’s Water and Sewer Fund. Freel said because citizens are continuously asked to higher rates to support expenditures for producing potable water and providing sewer and stormwater runoff services, they and the Council should be better able to track the dollars in each section of the Water/Sewer Fund. Freel said this would include tracking the available cash on hand for any expenditure that may arise. The Finance Chair said these changes would provide assurances that water/sewer funds are not being comingled with the General Operating Budget.
  • $25,000 to enable the City Administration to move forward on establishing a new stand-alone crime prevention/crime reduction website that would offer citizens a chance to report criminal activity anonymously, track crime trends in neighborhoods and communicate about crime directly among neighbors or neighborhoods.
  • Restoration of $250,000 to the budget for City Council which was removed from the legislative branch’s budget and transferred to the Department of Parks and Recreation as part of the Mayor’s original budget proposal. Council will use this funding for a variety of programs related to youth development, education reforms and other community-based programs.

In order to find the revenue necessary to restore funding or establish funding for the program initiatives outlined above, City Council has revised the City’s budget plan as follows:

  • Reduced the Mayor’s office budget by $28,000 to eliminate pay raises that the Mayor proposed for three of his staff members who had either already received an increase in salary earlier this year or just started working for City government in January. Although the amount of the deletion is small in comparison to the entire budget, Council determined that the raises were inappropriate for a variety of reasons;
  • Eliminated the position of Deputy Director of the Department of Park and Recreation for a savings of $110,400;
  • Eliminated three (3) vacant positions (Account Manager in Finance; Systems Analyst in Human Resources and a Marketing and Special Projects Coordinator in the Mayor’s Office) for a savings of approximately $268,000;
  • Reduced contingency reserves by $50,000;
  • Reduced consultant fees by $250,000;
  • Reduced funding for temporary employees and fees for temporary agencies by $200,000;
  • Reduced the Materials, Supply and Equipment (MS&E) expenditures in various budget lines by $549,000.

Council also took the following budget-related actions:

  • Deleted from the Mayor’s FY 2014 Capital Budget a project and program description entitled “Land Acquisition and Site Improvement” which totaled $2 million. Council President Gregory said he intends to amend the FY 2014 Capital Budget at a future date so the $2 million can be applied toward the development of a new William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center to replace the existing center in West Center City.
  • Announced its intention to ensure, either through the Capital Budget process or through City Code, that the City’s eight Neighborhood Planning Councils (NPC) come into compliance with policies regarding appropriate community representation within an NPC before any request for funding from an NPC for a project or initiative is approved by the Administration.