A long-simmering feud has boiled into a public war of words between Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer.
At the center of the dispute between the two Democrats is a disagreement over property taxes – Purzycki says the county should conduct “a complete, countywide” reassessment, while Meyer has said nothing is preventing the city from undertaking its own assessment.
The unusually sharp public display was triggered by the city’s request to join a lawsuit that would force New Castle County to conduct the first property tax reassessment in nearly 40 years. The legal action has been brought by the ACLU of Delaware, the NAACP and allied organizations claiming that poor Wilmington students have unequal opportunities due in part to the way property taxes – a source of school funding – are assessed.
A volley of barbed, finger-pointing press releases ensued late afternoon yesterday between the two offices with Purzycki claiming the current County process is “unconstitutional, unlawful and harmful to city property owners.”
Citing state code, Meyer responded to the mayor’s broadside by saying litigation was unnecessary.
“There is no need to waste City and County taxpayer money by litigating this issue in court,” said Meyer. If the City wants to reassess property, it has the power to do so under State law. In fact, Dover and Rehoboth reassess property on their own. Delaware law grants municipalities the authority to reassess properties within their boundaries.”
In particularly plain language aimed at his fellow Democrat, Purzycki said taxpayers should be furious with the county’s lack of action.
“No one can defend thirty-six years without ensuring fundamental tax fairness. The county executive fails to note that county taxes and school taxes are required by law to use county assessments. A city reassessment, therefore, would apply only to city taxes, leaving city residents unfairly assessed on both their county property and school taxes, negatively affecting each of the school districts serving Wilmington’s children.”
Wilmington claims the city is required to use New Castle County property assessments as the basis for its municipal property tax system.On behalf of the city, Purzycki says Delaware has a longstanding policy providing municipalities the statutory right to utilize the county’s assessment list and that Wilmington should have every right to do this.
The public venting of tensions between the two northern Delaware politicians is unusual given their need to work closely together on matters of mutual interest.