By Tom Lehman 5:09am, June 25, 2013 - Updated 8:34pm, June 25, 2013The Wilmington budget battle could be heating up again, after city council members removed $300,000 that would have been restored to Mayor Williams' contingency funds in a budget amendment to be voted on this week.
Council's finance committee voted on the measure at a meeting Monday, which means the amendment would only add $98,000 to the Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget, as opposed to the $389,000 in the original proposal.
Williams, just back from a mayor's conference in Las Vegas, reacted to the cut on Delaware's Morning News.
"Well, I don't know what changed since I got back from the Conference of Mayors but my reaction to it is I have a city to run. I'm not going to fight over $300,000. Citizens of this city are sick and tired of this, as well as I, it's time to go work. I have a city to run and that's exactly what I'm going to do. They can keep the 300 thousand dollars. I'm going to run this city as I was elected to do."
The reduction came after a tense exchange between the mayor's chief of staff and committee chair, over the restoration of $80,000 in the spending plan to hire temporary workers in the finance department for revenue collection. Williams has argued that move could lead to an influx of at least $1.5 million that would otherwise be lost due to cuts in the budget.
John Matlusky, the mayor's chief of staff, reiterated the administration's position that council passed an unbalanced budget, and the introduction of the amendment vindicates Williams.
"We've been waving the flag over this for over a month on this issue," Matlusky said. "The mayor clearly indicated that in his veto message, as well as in additional correspondences to council."
Councilman and Finance Committee Chair Bud Freel disagreed and said the mayor's administration still hasn't proven its claim that $80,000 in restored funds would lead to $1.5 million in revenue.
"I'm going to try to control myself here because I feel like getting up and walking out of this door and closing this meeting after hearing that statement to be honest with you," Freel said.
Nevertheless, the allocation to the finance department was approved along with $18,000 to the city's planning department for a temporary hire of an American with Disabilities staff member.
The committee also cut the contingency funds and another $89,000 to be used for a human resources position that would assist management of city employee work hours and practices.
Council President Theo Gregory backed the decision, but said in a statement the budget additions set aside Monday will be examined and considered at a later date.
"Even though Council is in the strange position of not being able to discuss government issues with the Administration," Gregory said. "Council has and will continue to approach its job with professionalism, class and dignity and will continue to adhere to the principles of fiscal integrity and leadership."
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