Wilmington capital budget passes, operating budget fails in council vote
Wilmington City Council overwhelmingly approved a 3.8 percent sewer fee increase for City residents starting July 1. And Mayor Mike Purzycki’s proposed capital budget passed by a slim margin— with seven votes in favor.
The capital budget’s controversial line was $3.4 million in bonds to repay outstanding debt from the Wilmington Housing Partnership. Several council members said the administration has not answered their questions about unfinished housing projects after the city took over the Partnership early this year.
Councilwoman Yolanda McCoy says she has been trying to get information for her constituents about unfinished projects in the 6th District. “Trying to find out who owns them— is it still owned by the Wilmington Housing Partnership? How are we moving forward? How much money needs to happen?” she said. “I’m at a place now where I’m feeling a little disrespected.”
Councilman Trippi Congo urged other council members to show their dissatisfaction by rejecting the Mayor’s budget. “If we vote for this capital budget, we’re saying it’s okay to be ignored,” he said. “This is the only time we have to use our power.”
But the capital budget passed. It was the $170 million operating budget that failed, falling one ‘yes’ short of the seven needed.
“I think maybe it should have been the reverse,” said Councilwoman Linda Gray, who voted in favor of both budgets. “But it was just too much controversy at one time.”
“Hopefully I can pull out of [the council members] what they want that caused them to say ‘no,’ and we can address it,” said Council President Hanifa Shabazz. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Congo was among those who voted against the operating budget. “For one, it didn’t include body cameras” for Wilmington police, he said. “And that’s something that Council and the citizens of Wilmington have been asking for for years. And it seems like there’s just resistance from the administration and the Chief of Police. I don’t understand why.”
When Mayor Mike Purzycki presented his budget, he named priorities including increasing public safety, strengthening economic development and creating a more attractive city. He estimated the budget would leave a several million dollar surplus, and that barring unexpected costs, he does not think a property tax increase will be needed in 2021 either.
A spokesperson for Mayor Purzycki says he will ask Council to vote on the budget again before the end of the month.