May 2009

Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker

The impact of the economy on revenues remains the top story for all governments, and Wilmington is no exception. In presenting his Budget Address, Mayor Jim Baker said the 2009-10 Budget was "the most difficult budget proposal I have had to assemble in my eight years as Mayor" as a result of "the most disturbing economic climate that I have seen in my 37 years in public service."

Like Governor Markell and County Executive Coons, Mayor Baker has presented a budget that includes hard choices and calls for both reduced expenditures and new revenue. It may be difficult times, but the Mayor called for "No Turning Back on our Progress and our Future!" He recognizes that, "we must continue to promote business and residential growth because these actions will sustain government services and strengthen our City’s financial base."

In his Budget Address, Mayor Baker outlined $8.2 million in reduced expenditures, including a $2.5 million saving from a request that all City employees forego salary and step increases to avoid layoffs. To date, the unions have refused, and, as a result, as many as 75 unionized City employees now face layoffs June 30.

The proposed budget also includes new revenue of $4.7 million from a 15% property tax increase and $3.6 million from a variety of fee and fine increases, new economic development revenue, and federal grants. Most impacting business would be the $5 increase, to $15, of the monthly head tax paid by businesses in Wilmington which employ five or more people.

James M. Baker began his historic third term as Mayor of Wilmington on January 6, 2009. He was first elected to Wilmington City Council in 1972 and served as its President from 1982 to 2001. He knows Wilmington well and has been on the cutting edge of its change.

When cynics were writing off the City as its population was decreasing, Jim Baker called for a residential renaissance. When buildings were being torn down and land paved over, he led the campaign to beautify the City. When others were afraid to speak up, he called for personal responsibility.

During his tenure, Mayor Baker has presided over an economic, residential, and landscaping renaissance with his decisive, get-it-done leadership. His tell-it-like-it-is approach is always refreshing and enlightening.

Beverley Baxter

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