Mayor of Wilmington predicts deficits, weighs in on layoffs and more

In less than a month, Mayor James Baker will present his last city budget.  He’s glad it is the last one he has to present.

Wilmington continues struggling in the current economy.  Mayor Baker was in the WHYY studios for a segment on First.  He says the bottom line, right now for the city, is to increase revenue. “We don’t have the revenues. Our projections for the future are deficits,” said Baker.  According to the mayor, when he proposed tax increases in the past, people were against it. Now, Mayor Baker admits, that the city is down to limited options such as using reserves and making cuts.  Baker added, “We’ve cut about 17-million, ten million in the last two years and seven million before that.”

The Mayor knows there will be challenges in presenting his fiscal 2013 budget.  He lays most of that challenge to the continuing tension between Mayor Baker and Wilmington city council.  He says he is not looking for a fight during the next budget session, but he isn’t going to back down from a fight, if the city council is confrontational. 

As far as layoffs, the mayor was very open on that subject.  “I don’t believe layoffs are the answers to your economic problems, because what it does, is it just creates another nightmare for you, and for the families that you layoff, because they lose everything, and they got to start all over trying to find a job in a bad economy, and that’s not a wise policy.”

In order to get things on track in the city, Mayor Baker is seeking to make sensible cuts, if needed, and tap into the reserve fund. ” We’re going to have to use our reserves to get this right, although I’ve already been told we don’t want to spend reserves. How long are you going to hold onto them,” Baker asked.

The mayor doesn’t anticipate tax or fee increases either, in the near future.  “There’s no way you’re going to see tax increases, no politician is going to vote for tax increases, first of all, the bad economy is going to cause them not to want to do it, and election time is going to cause them not to do it, so you have to figure out new ways of preserving, cutting, and increasing your revenues,” concluded Baker.

Mayor Baker will present his last city budget on March 15th.  You can look at the full interview on newsworks.org/delaware in the First column.  You can view the Mayor’s remarks on WHYY-TV, Friday at 5:30 and 11pm, Sunday at 11am, and Monday afternoon at 5:30.  

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.