Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker recently presented his Fiscal Year 2013 Operating Budget proposal, totaling $143.4 million, and it does not include a property tax increase or layoffs.
That means the Wilmington mayor will not be able to offer city employees a pay raise for the fourth consecutive year. There is an increase of $4 million in the 2013 budget which Baker says is the result of some uncontrollable items. However, the mayor managed to keep current city services and programs in place at their current levels. “We have already cut the budget by $350,000 in this proposal on top of the $10 million in cuts over the last three years. We can’t cut anymore without effecting programs and services,” said Baker. Mayor Baker also proposed a Water/Sewer Fund Budget which includes a nine percent increase in the rates for water, sewer and storm water fees. The overall increase is expected to cost residents about $4.19 per month, or $12.57 per quarter based on the average water use. As far as the state of the city, Baker said, “Our revenue projections have improved slightly, but we are still on a roller coaster when it comes to local companies adding and subtracting jobs.” Baker added, “Due to the diligent work of our city finance officers, the projected $5.5 million deficit now stands at $2.75 million.” Meanwhile, other positive bullet points in the proposed budget include new handheld radios for police and fire officials, the restoration of the city’s 4th of July festival, the reduction of overall city electricity costs by 16 percent due to “greening” initiatives, and the city’s latest investment opportunity to create a new hotel on the riverfront. Until City Council votes on the budget, there will be hearings on the proposal in April and May. A budget must be implemented before July 1, when the new fiscal year starts.