City Council passes budget; Mayor will veto

By Tom Lehman 8:52pm, May 16, 2013 - Updated 1:30pm, May 17, 2013
VIDEO: Council members discuss the FY 2014 operating budget
Mayor Williams says he will veto the Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget passed by Wilmington City Council Thursday night.

The operating budget totals approximately $145 million and was amended to include funding for the deputy director of parks and recreation, a position that Council had planned to cut.

The budget was passed Thursday night in a vote 10-2 vote with one member voting "present."

Council President Theo Gregory says he believes Williams will veto the budget, but he thinks there are enough votes to override him. Under the city code, two-thirds of council, or nine members, would have need to support the override for the measure to succeed.

"We'll hold onto them. I think it's going to be a vicious campaign to get people to change their minds--a vicious campaign, but I believe everybody's going to keep the faith and stay strong," Gregory says.

Click here to listen

A council meeting has already been scheduled for next week in anticipation of Williams' veto. The mayor has 10 days to issue such a measure and indicated in a statement that he will.

"I'll veto this budget, and we will continue working with Council to come up with a plan that is legal and is in the best interest of our citizens," Williams says.

The amended budget removes $28,000 in pay raises for members of the mayor's staff and reduces one of the mayor's contingency budget lines by $300,000.

It also restored $250,000 in council's budget for grants to support youth initiatives, which Williams alleges is a "slush fund." He says Michael Migliore, the city solicitor has ruled the budget unconstitutional.

Council members concerned over budget conflict

The ongoing budget battle between the city's executive and legislative branches caused some council members to express displeasure over the process.

Councilman Trippi Congo called the budget conflict "embarrassing" and called on Gregory to find a way to compromise with Williams.

"You and the mayor need to take your gloves off," said Congo, who was one of two council members to vote against the budget.

Other members such as Councilman Justen Wright, said Gregory did not involve council members enough during the budget process.

"This concerns me because the meeting before the meeting keeps happening," Wright says.

One call for cooperation between Williams and Gregory came from Councilwoman Maria Cabrera, who said council and the mayor must find common ground.

"We need to work together. We need to be a unified force. the Mayor, city council, all of us," Cabrera said.

Councilman Mike Brown, who was particularly animated during his defense of the budget, says Gregory was effective in his communication with council members as the spending plan was developed.

Brown, who was at one point yelling, said the involved parties should ignore the politics surrounding the situation and produce a budget that was positive for the city's residents.

"It's the people's seat and therefore whatever budget we come up with, it has to work for the people," Brown said.

Councilwoman Loretta Walsh voted for the budget but said the conflict surrounding the spending plan was unfortunate.

"I think people have to understand that success of a mayor is the success for an entire city," Walsh said.

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