Delaware proposes millions of dollars in budget cuts to avoid deficit

The Delaware budget for fiscal year 2016 could contain millions of dollars in budget cuts in order to avoid a $27.7 million deficit.

The Joint Finance Committee, which decides the state’s budget, began voting Monday on a revised budget for the year beginning July 1. It includes several reductions and shifts to where funding will come from for agencies like education, public safety and public services.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, $18 million in budget cuts had been made since Gov. Jack Markell recommended a $3.9 billion budget in January.

“We are going to make policy decisions about who will be getting money, who will not be getting money, and that’s not easy,” said committee chairwoman Rep. Melanie George Smith, D-Bear/Newark.

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The committee voted to reduce spending in several areas Monday. Some of the big ticket items include a 10 percent reduction of $527,800 for general assistance in social services, and a $125,000 reduction to Polly Drummond Hill yard waste.

Smith said the cut on the waste site will likely force it to close a couple days a week, which will impact a lot of people.

Several items on the budget will be funded through other sources to lessen the financial burden on the state’s budget. The presidential primary and the Department of Education IMS upgrade, each about $1.2 million, will be funded through settlement funds.

Settlement funds also will be used to fund $1 million for the Charter School Performance Fund. However, this also is a $500,000 cut to the program, which is something several political leaders are unhappy about.

The Sussex County Police also will see a shift in where its funding comes from. Currently, the county and the state split funding evenly to pay for the state troopers it uses.  Starting Jan. 1, the county will finance all $1.2 million.

Several more items will be voted on during a hearing Wednesday, and the committee also will vote on grant and aid funding next week, which is predicted to receive a $2 million cut.

The committee also is concerned about Fiscal Year 2017, which currently has a forecast deficit of $169.9 million.

“If we think this year’s problems are bad, next years are way, way worse,” said Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover. “If we don’t deal with overall revenue picture were going to have serious problem on our hands.”


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