Gregory Says City Council's Push for Government Spending Cuts and Greater Government Efficiencies Will Not be Deterred by a Veto

Posted on  07/18/2014 2:37 pm

The Council President Says the Mayor's Decision to Reject Opportunities for Government Spending Cuts Run Counter to the Fiscal Needs of the City

City Council President Theo Gregory said today he is disappointed but vowed that Council will not be deterred by the Mayor’s veto of legislation that would have reduced the size and cost of City government and mitigated the tax and fee burden on citizens and businesses. The Council President said he is considering whether to call Council into session to vote to override the Mayor’s veto.

“The majority of City Council supports the process we have begun to review the spending history and practices of City government and we’ll continue with those efforts,” said Gregory. “Council wants to work with the Administration to make intelligent and practical decisions about reducing expenditures and seeking greater efficiencies in government operations,” said Gregory. “However, the Administration cannot continue the pattern of looking to citizens and businesses for more taxes and fees, while ignoring substantial cost savings from a smaller and more efficient government. We will continue reaching out to the Administration to cooperate with Council on better ways to manage and provide government services.”

Gregory said the Administration has missed an opportunity to affect potential future tax increases by rejecting the cost savings from Council’s Ordinance. For example, he said, had Council’s $511,000 spending cut for the fire department been in place back in May when the FY 2015 budget was being debated, Council could have been able to reduce the 5% tax increase that became effective July 1 to 3.6%. Gregory said each time City government can successfully reduce its own costs, there is a better chance that the tax burden on citizens and businesses can be reduced.

The Council President said he is most disappointed by Mayor Williams’ claim that his veto is based on concerns about preserving public safety. He said Mayor Williams has rejected an excellent opportunity to cut government spending without reducing fire safety standards for our citizens or firefighters. Gregory said the public safety argument is without merit, as proven by the rolling bypass that produced savings of more than $2 million and reduced overtime costs during the last years of the previous Baker Administration. Under the rolling bypass, one piece of fire equipment is placed out of service each day on a rotating basis around the City. “The Mayor and Fire Chief know that the rolling bypass concept, which requires fewer firefighters on duty each day, does not adversely affect public safety yet saves money,” Gregory said. “We had a perfect opportunity to reduce government spending without laying anyone off under the Council’s plan. Instead, overall fire department expenditures continue to increase.”

“I am very pleased however that the majority of City Council was guided by the facts in this matter and chose a more challenging yet courageous route of supporting fiscal responsibility,” Gregory continued. “There are a multitude of issues that concern Council. They are on the horizon and are not going to go away.” Gregory said they include ongoing negotiations with labor unions that could result in a pay increase for City employees who have gone without an increase for several years, rising health care costs for current and retired employees, and the City’s outstanding pension liability. The Council President said Mayor Williams cannot continue to ignore the warnings of Wilmington’s independent Economic and Financial Advisory Council (WEFAC) which said the City cannot tax its way out of its financial challenges. WEFAC urged City leaders to adopt a significant reduction of expenditures over the next five years, including the elimination of positions, in order to achieve fiscal stability.
Gregory also said today that Mayor Williams veto of Council’s budget-cutting ordinance also wiped out a $100,000 Council appropriation that was presented to the Administration to be for management studies of the Departments of Public Works and Finance. Council President Gregory said it is Council’s position that all City government operations need to be reviewed for ways to cut spending and improve service to citizens.

In a final comment regarding the funding cuts for the fire department that have now been vetoed, Gregory urged citizens to read the Berkshire Report which is posted on the City’s website at www.WilmingtonDE.gov/government/firereports. He said the total projected savings to taxpayers through reductions in the fire department is more than $2.5 million dollars. “Council was acting on behalf of citizens and on the values of its own Council Members who favor government spending cuts,” said Gregory. “We approved fire department expenditure reductions of a half-million dollars in this initial effort which was rejected by the Mayor. So, just as our City’s fiscal concerns won’t go away, neither will the Berkshire Report or Council’s push for greater accountability of government spending. Our goal is for the majority of Council Members to stand together, hopefully with the support of the Administration, to improve the City’s fiscal condition and respect the wishes of the citizens whose money funds the government.”