recognizing that political reality exposes those short-term
ideas to an uncertain fate in the General Assembly, the panel's
final report -- which is due in Dover by May 30 -- will propose
that it or some other group investigate the possibilities
inherent in longer-range and more esoteric revenue sources.
just a $5 million or $10 million deficit that we're trying to
fix," said taskforce co-chairman Scott Green. "We can come up
with some short-term [proposals], but it's a bigger picture than
Assembly about to enter the final month of its present session,
there is general agreement on the taskforce and among political
observers that getting a package of significant revenue measures
to aid the city enacted, in addition to legislation dealing with
the state's financial situation, is at best an iffy proposition.
Miner has pledged support, but lawmakers face the prospect of
opposition from both suburban constituents -- who, at best, have
a nine-to-five business-day relationship with the city -- and
their downstate colleagues.
there is considerable agreement with the idea that Wilmington is
preeminent in several capacities, Mayor James Baker acknowledged
that "a lot of people misunderstand the operation of the city."
Citing reductions in the city workforce and the sale of assets
such as the Port of Wilmington, he told the taskforce that
"we've used all kinds of methodology to solve [our] problems."
the added, the financial problem "is cumulative [and] will keep
getting bigger and bigger and bigger."
Ideas the taskforce sees as best
deferred to a later, but not too distant, day include such
things as giving the city greater latitude in annexing adjacent
properties, state-supported upgrading and
city infrastructure to attract economic redevelopment,
authorizing a tax-paying gambling venue in the city, and other
forms of state-city revenue sharing.
"Don't think we can, in five weeks,
completely solve structural problems that have been growing for
50 years," state Senator Harris McDowell told what was scheduled
to be the taskforce's final meeting -- at least for its first
round of deliberation.
Co-chairman Fred Sears prefaced that
session on May 23 by explaining that the taskforce's charge is
to make recommendations to the governor. "It'll be up to her to
decide what she wants to pass on [to the legislature]," he said.
It was obvious from discussion which
followed, however, that there remains a wide divergence of
opinion on the 24-member panel. There had been some softening of
language in arriving at a next-to-final draft of the taskforce's
report to avoid offending sensitivities. But there also was
strong sentiment against compromising to a point where firmly
held points become lost in generalizations.
City Councilman Michael Hare, for
instance, argued against backing off from the proposition that
Wilmington is entitled to a return on its investment in
city-owned Hoopes Reservoir, especially since that facility is
being viewed as the primary reserve of potable water for
northern New Castle County in the event of severe future
These are the
ideas likely to be presented as ways to increase
Wilmington's revenue and their estimated annual
Charge for 'hosting' the Cherry Island Marsh
landfill -- $2 million to $5 million
Surcharge for storing a reserve water supply in
Hoopes Reservoir coupled with increases in rates for
city-supplied water -- to be determined
Increase the amount paid to the city by Wilmington
Parking Authority in lieu of property taxes --
$50,000 to $185,000
A 2% local surcharge on the state lodging tax --
Adding revenue from natural gas to that from
electricity in determining the city's utility tax on
Conectiv Power -- $425,000
Tax on admissions to public recreational events --
$400,000 to $500,000
Add an additional two percentage points to the
state-proposed 17% increase in incorporation taxes
and fees -- $7 million (preliminary estimate)
Taskforce draft report 5/23/0
That, he said, is a fundamental
point and the only one on which members of the subcommittee on
city infrastructure which he chaired were in unanimous
agreement. "It's something you want to make sure gets to the
front of the plate," Hare said.
Lieutenant Governor John Carney agreed that "there is a value to
everyone relying on Hoopes," and Peter Ross, who represents the
Delaware Economic & Financial Advisory Council on the taskforce,
referred to the reservoir and the dam that creates it as "city
assets on which the city is not receiving adequate
objected to another asset-related proposal -- to be paid for
'hosting' the Delaware Solid Waste Authority's landfill in what
used to be Cherry Island Marsh -- on the grounds that it could
be interpreted as signaling city approval of controversial
pending plans to expand the landfill. Hare said that, even if
the expansion does not occur, present environmental permits give
the landfill about five more years at the present rate of waste
Horty, who heads and accounting firm, said that the city's best
bet in the way of self-help lies in the availability of property
with redevelopment potential. A combination of state investment
in infrastructure and incentives to would-be developers would
make both commercial and residential ventures attractive. In the
long run, he said, that would be cheaper, more efficient and
more in keeping with the governor's 'Livable Delaware' program
than building anew on undev4loped land.
Wilmington is given the same opportunities everybody else has,
it's viable," he said.
told the taskforce that its mission is to establish permanent
long-term revenue sources, not just solve an immediate budget
shortfall. "We need a large source of funds that will grow," he
he is "generally satisfied" with the recommendations the
taskforce is considering, but indicated that the present effort
to come up with a solution to what he terms 'structural
problems' in the city's revenue-generating ability is the only
attempt he will make. "If we don't [get] it now, some other
mayor will back [with the same request] in a few years," he
at all smart, we will save this great city and not play games
with it," he said.
aside, Baker said he favorite among the recommendations was to
piggyback on state incorporation taxes and fees. The task force
is advocating that Minner's proposal to increase them by 17% be
expanded to 19% with the additional revnue going to the city.
Castle County Executive Thomas Gordon said that his
administration continues to support the city, citing the county
government's assumption of responsibility for building, staffing
and supplying a new West Side library. Coming soon, he said,
will be a county effort to help the city fire department "get
into the ambulance business." He also referred to a
venture involving police, without giving any details.
different context, Baker noted increased pressure to enlarge the
city police force. "Everybody said I should hire more police,
but how in the hell am I going to do it" without the financial
resources to pay additional officers.