Mayor Williams touts accomplishments, calls for examination of healthcare costs in annual address
Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams presented his 2016 State of the City address Thursday night.
“I’m a leader and I’m not afraid to make tough decisions and you can clap on that also," Williams said.
Williams touted his efforts improving the city, telling the audience multiple times that they can clap for his achievements.
That’s not what Councilman Nnamdi Chukwuocha wanted to hear. He says the mayor’s speech lacked the necessary focus on the future.
“It was more: look what I’ve done instead of here are the issues with our city and here’s my plan to address those issues," Chukwuocha said. "He talked a little bit about education, but for me a key issue is that since 1978 we haven’t had an official voice in the city government that has a role to play in the education of our children.”
Williams touted the creation of the police department’s homicide unit in 2014, expansion of youth services, and promises to raise pay for city workers, while avoiding layoffs, among many other things.
Hardly any time was spent addressing his proposed FY 2017 budget. It seeks no new taxes or fees, but is up nearly two percent from this year's spending plan. Williams did note his administration is working on a three-year strategic plan to curb rising healthcare costs.
“It’s a major thing our employees enjoy but it’s something we’re going to have to face," Williams said. "We can’t continue to kick the can down the road because it’ll escalate to the point where it will bankrupt us if we don’t work on this.”
City Councilman Bud Freel says he’s also concerned about healthcare costs, and efforts so far to address them.
“We did delete a few positions this year, I’m not sure it’s enough," Freel said. "There was a transfer made to overcome that increase in healthcare costs and that concerns me because I don’t know – first of all, they’re taking it from a fund that I don’t know if they can afford to give that money up.”
City Councilman Robert Williams says the numbers the Mayor threw out are impressive this time around, but said the real “meat and potatoes” will take place once the budget hearings begin.
“We don’t want to raise taxes, but at the same time there are some positions that have been vacant for many years and to me, that’s the quickest and easiest way to get rid of it," he said. "I’ve always said from day one there are three major functions that the city has to do: pick up trash, put out fires, lock up the bad guys. Everything else is secondary.”
Freel, however, was more critical of Williams, stressing that the city needs to do more studies - like one conducted on the fire department staff - for all major departments including public works, finance and others.
He says he’s been encouraging the mayor to do these studies for three years, and feels they are critical to eliminating waste in the city’s budget.
Budget hearings begin on Monday. The new budget needs to be approved by council before June 30th.