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Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki delivers his final State of the City and Budget address

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki says the state of the city has never been better in his 8th and final State of the City and Budget address.

He’s proposing a $192.3 million operating budget - a 5.3% increase over the current budget. He’s also seeking a $90.1 million water/sewer/stormwater budget.

His plan does not include a property tax increase.

“The only place this year where we must raise rates is in our sewer and water fund. Following the advice of the independent Utility Citizen Advisory Board (UCAB), we are recommending raising water rates by 9%, which is of course a significant increase,” said Purzycki.

That’s higher than the 5.7% anticipated increase outlined in the Water/Sewer Fund Six-year Financial Plan released last year.

The 9% rise is expected to create an additional $5.7 million in revenue.

The stormwater rate is set to rise by 6%. Purzycki says that increase is tied to improved infrastructure, and would help fund more projects like the Southbridge Wilmington Wetlands Park and work in flood mitigation.

Purzycki says one of the city’s biggest problems is recruitment and cites City Council’s decision to not lift the city’s employee residency requirement as a reason that problem persists.

“Today we have as many vacancies in key positions as ever before," he said. "Yes, I understand that this is a national problem. But please someone then explain to me why adding an additional barrier to hiring such as residency makes any sense whatsoever in this current environment.”

Purzycki’s budget would spend an additional $4.5 million this year to create an Emergency Medical Services Division to deliver ambulance service previously provided for free by Trinity Health.

That would include hiring 40 EMTs and a manager to staff the division - a task Purzycki does not view as possible if the residency requirement remains in place.

The mayor did note he wants to take steps now to help offset that $4.5 million and other expected increases in spending on staffing, like the anticipated rise in labor costs at a higher than normal rate.

“We find ourselves losing employees to other municipalities who are facing the same challenges as we are and are willing to pay more for experienced workers,” said Purzycki. “Given these increased labor costs looming in the future, we have chosen to offset anticipated cost increases by reducing 13 currently vacant positions now, rather than leaving this unpleasant business to my successor.”

But Purzycki says there are successes to celebrate.

He notes murders have dropped 50% compared to 2016.

“In the current CompStat report, this year’s homicide rate is down another 25%. We are aware of a national pattern of reduced violent crime, but Wilmington’s performance far outpaces the national average of 13%,” said Purzycki.

He also points to development as a consistent source of revenue for the City.

He says Wilmington has issued nearly $2 billion in building

permits since 2017, and over 1,500 affordable housing units have been built or rehabbed during his term.

“We have much to be proud of. I honestly don’t know how much more we could reasonably have done,” Purzycki concluded.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.