Wilmington Mayor vetoes budget

He drew a line in the sand back in March. That’s when Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker put City Council on notice saying he was willing to fight with them over the budget, and other issues, facing Wilmington.

So, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board for City Council members, now that Mayor Baker vetoed the FY2012 budget passed by City Council last Thursday night.

In his brief veto letter Monday, the Mayor said the budget, as approved, is not balanced as required by law.

City Council did not like the alternate budget Mayor Baker proposed last week, so members drafted and passed their own budget proposal.

Council member Steve Martelli says in council’s version, members eliminated a position in the Finance Division and believes that’s why the Mayor is saying the budget’s unbalanced.

“I wish I knew how the administration could say that by not having this position in the budget, the budget is not going to be balanced. It just makes zero sense, it’s completely counter-intuitive and it just speaks to the problems that this administration has specifically with this council,” said Martelli.

Baker says the budget approved by council will reduce “vital city services” and force more city employees out of their jobs.

“There’s absolutely no truth to that whatsoever. It’s going to cut city services, you mean like closing down a fire station every day like we’re doing under the current administration and the current budget,” countered Martelli.

The Mayor’s Office declined a request for an interview saying the Mayor is trying to work things out with council members to resolve their differences and does not want to risk creating any more drama in the interim. 

As for what’s next, Martelli says council could call a special meeting to override the Mayor’s veto, but nothing’s in the works right now.

Late Monday, Council President Norman Griffiths and Finance Chairman Charles Freel say the Mayor is basing his veto over an open position in the Finance Department.  Griffith put out a statement saying, “in these tight economic times…, it is not unreasonable to require duties… in a vacant position to be assumed by existing staff.”

In his letter, the Mayor expressed hope that both sides will be able to hammer out a budget compromise for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2011 soon.  Griffith in his statement pointed out the council has 8 days to reach such an agreement because the charter requires a budget be implemented 30 days before the end of a fiscal year.  He says he wants the public to know council did do its job in approving a balanced budget.

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