After a 12 year run, and trying to whip the City of Wilmington into shape, Mayor James Baker delivered his last budget proposal inside Council Chambers, where several city and community members packed the room.
Prior to outlining the $143.4 million budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013, Baker shared a few words about the state of the city. “Our revenue projections have improved slightly, but we are still on a roller coaster when it comes to local companies adding and subtracting jobs,” said Mayor James Baker. “Due to the diligent work of our city finance officers, the projected $5.5 million deficit now stands at $2.75 million.”
Baker also reminded everyone that there will not be any layoffs or cuts. “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.” In the midst of it all, the Wilmington mayor apologized for not being able to offer city employees a pay raise for the fourth consecutive fiscal year.
Meanwhile, Baker illustrated that there is an increase of $4-million in the 2013 budget which is the result of some uncontrollable items. He also pointed out some positive bullet points that 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.
The setting Thursday was calm considering the 2012 budget address when Mayor Baker blasted Council. “This tension between Council and adversarial issues between Council and the administration has to stop. And I’m willing to stop, but I’ll fight you tooth and nail if you want,” expressed Baker last year.
But the tone Thursday was very different as Baker apologized to Council. “I really want to thank you Mr. President and members of Council, we had our battles over my tenure as mayor, but that’s common. I think that Wilmington is fortunate, in the fact that we have people who care about the city no matter what our different opinions might be as to how to get there and make it the best city that we can,” said Baker.
After the event, Loretta Walsh, Council-At-Large added that the Fiscal Year 2013 budget address was a bitter sweet moment for her. “I was very proud of him tonight and I haven’t said that alot lately, I think this was the mayor I supported three times to become mayor and I think he showed it, instead of his tough guy act he puts on all the time, I think he showed the reason why he really ran for mayor to begin with.”