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Politics & Government

Wilmington City Council narrowly rejects FY17 operating budget

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Megan Pauly/Delaware Public Media
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Wilmington City Council voted down a proposed $154 million FY17 operating budget Thursday night in a 6-7 vote.

 

There were many dissenters, including Councilwoman Loretta Walsh, who says the city will be up a creek without a paddle when it comes time to balance the budget next year.

She fears residents will face double-digit tax increases a year from now, and is concerned about the fate of what she calls “worker bee jobs.”

“The ones that are doing the hard, manual work out there," Walsh said. "It’s not just this administration too: they’re very fast at putting desk jobs in the budget but when it comes to putting what I call the visual jobs that you can actually see what they do out there, they’re very hesitant in doing that.”

She’s also worried some council members were allowing “pet projects” to fuel their votes: saying the job of council members is to protect their citizens not pet projects.

Other council members like Bud Freel took issue with the small number of vacant jobs eliminated in the budget.

 

Councilman Bud Freel voiced concern that many changes in the comprise announced by Mayor Dennis Williams and Council President Theo Gregory Wednesday were made after public hearings and discussions between council members about necessary budget changes.

 

“My concern was a lot happened after all our hearings," Freel said. "Even most council members were not involved in many of the discussions. You know, they deleted five positions but they added six. I just find it strange that when they want positions they can find positions to delete, but before that they couldn’t find anymore: they couldn’t delete any more positions.”

 

Positions added include a help desk manager, employee benefits manager, risk manager, network technician, fleet administrator, and consultants in the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget for departmental operational reviews. Funding for the consultants is included for $100,000 and $94,034 is in the budget for the fleet administration position.

 

Among those vacant positions eliminated include the Telecom Manger in amount of $99,886, an economic development program support specialist in the amount of $75,222, and a document management systems administrator in the amount of $75,752.

 
Mayor Williams’ Chief of Staff Gary Fullman is disappointed the budget didn’t pass, calling the compromise plan hammered out fiscally responsible.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know that there’s any desire on our part: at least at this time – to go in and start tinkering with the budget and moving numbers around," Fullman said. "I don’t even know what they would be and why we would do it.”

Council must approve its FY17 budget by the end of this month, and is expected to schedule another vote in the next week to try again.

 

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