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Purzycki proposes budget with no tax increase amid pandemic-related shortfall

Wilmington residents won’t see higher taxes next fiscal year, despite a projected multi-million dollar deficit fueled by the pandemic. 

Mayor Mike Purzyzcki proposed a  $172 million operating budget Thursday — with no property tax increase, but fee increases of 3% for water and sewer and 2% for stormwater. 

The city faces a more than $5 million deficit in its general fund—which Purzycki says would equate to a 14% tax increase. But he proposes balancing the budget with tax stabilization reserves instead. 

He cautions that revenue sources Wilmington took for granted before the pandemic may dry up going forward.

“As we end fiscal year 2021, we project a $12 million decrease in key revenue lines compared with FY 2019, which was the last full year before the pandemic took hold,” Purzycki said. “Examples are a $3 million loss in parking revenue, a $1.6 million loss in interest income, and an almost $2 million loss in wage and net profits tax. Empty office space has led to real estate reassessment appeals, which again has resulted in reduced property tax revenue.”

Purzycki called gun violence the “scar on the City’s soul.”

“I don’t believe this is a policing problem,” he said. “In fact, our police department has done an outstanding job during a time when the entire criminal justice system has been shut down, criminal trials have ceased, and illegal guns have flooded the streets. It is an article of faith that if we don’t fix the underlying social ills, we will never reduce crime in the long run. Therefore, it will be the theme of this administration to improve the housing and the environment our children are raised in.”

Purzycki’s proposed budget includes more than $5 million targeted toward neighborhood stabilization and development, and money for police body cameras.

 

He also backs pursuing a high school in the city. 

 

"I commit to you my dedication to a better education for our youth and a City high school that can serve as the anchor for our young peoples’ healthy identity and self-image—a high school that serves also as a cultural activity center and as a community support system,” said Purzycki.

The City expects to receive $55 million in flexible COVID relief from the American Rescue Plan that passed Congress earlier this month. But Purzycki warned its use is limited and it is one-time money.

City Council released a supportive joint statement Thursday night. Members added health literacy and equity as additional priorities.  

 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.