City of Wilmington

Wilmington, Delaware, United States

The City of Wilmington (City) has water, sewer, and stormwater public utility services which are provided through its Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund. At the time, the poor financial condition of the utility fund had required inter-governmental support to maintain financial viability. The City’s utility organization, like many public utility organizations around the country, was challenged by increased regulatory requirements, aging infrastructure, and reduced revenues.

For the City, providing water services to areas outside the City and wastewater treatment services to large areas of New Castle County, added further complexities in assuring financial sufficiency. As a result, the Mayor and City Council engaged Raftelis to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the City’s Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund to identify opportunities to strengthen the financial sustainability of the City’s utilities to enable the water and sewer enterprise fund to regain its ability to be self-supporting.

To accomplish this objective, Raftelis focused its assessment and evaluation in the following four focus areas: governance, finance, management, and operations. The assessment sought to evaluate how the policies and procedures, organizational structure, management approach, and operational practices of these four focus areas impact the City’s ability to achieve the desired long-term financial sustainability of its utilities. The project team utilized Effective Utility Management (EUM), which addresses the 10 Attributes of effectively managed water sector utilities and the 5 Keys to Management Success.

Raftelis conducted a series of workshops, stakeholder interviews, employee focus group meetings, and a management-level employee survey, as well as reviews of key reports, planning documents, and financial statements. From these efforts the project team assembled an inventory of existing issues associated with current governance, finance, management, and operations practices being utilized by the City which served as the basis for comparisons to industry best practice. Four focus area teams were then created that included members of the consulting team and City staff to compare how the City’s current approach to governance, finance, management, and operations either enhances or impedes the City’s ability to address specific challenges, obstacles, and changes necessary to strengthen the overall utility financial health. This engagement resulted in a series of recommendations that will:

  • Enhance communication and cooperation between the branches of City government and between the City of Wilmington and New Castle County
  • Strengthen the financial position of the water and sewer enterprise fund through the establishment of reserves and enhanced financial management
  • Improve the overall management of the utility through implementation of a series of recommendations designed to bring the utility closer to the ideal state as compared to the Keys to Management Success as they are defined by EUM
  • Enhance operations through more effective performance measurement and the implementation of recommendations addressing each of the 10 Attributes of an Effectively Managed Utility

The results of this assessment resulted in the City engaging Raftelis to lead the development of a strategic plan for the Utilities Department. The results of the prior assessment were used to identify opportunities to enhance organizational planning and performance in several key areas.

Following the development of the utilities’ strategic plan, the City again engaged Raftelis for additional strategic planning support associated with the City’s enterprise-wide strategic planning effort. In support of the City Administration’s focus to develop a strategic plan which connected 13 of the City’s major departments, Raftelis coordinated and led the development of this City-wide strategic plan, which included departmental goals and measurable objectives for the City’s:

  • Economic Development Office
  • Finance Department
  • Fire Department
  • Human Resources Department
  • IT Department
  • Legal Department
  • Licenses and Inspections Department
  • Park and Recreations Department
  • Planning and Development Department
  • Police Department
  • Public Works Department
  • Real Estate and Housing Department

A high-quality external-facing strategic planning deliverable was developed and designed by Raftelis for use by the City to communicate their strategic plan to internal and external stakeholders.