New Castle County budget comes into focus this week

A new era of New Castle County government adds another chapter when County Executive Paul Clark delivers his first budget address Tuesday night. 

New Castle County faces an estimated $5-million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, and a $10-million shortfall for fiscal year 2012.

Clark, a Democrat, became County Executive in November 2010 after several years as County Council President.  He has spent the past few weeks laying the groundwork for his budget proposal which is being presented Tuesday.

Previously-announced cuts included the elimination of a $112,000 expenditure from the executive’s office budget to pay for a lobbyist in Washington DC to address county issues.  Clark also directed department heads to reduce their spending by a combined $1-million for this fiscal year, which ends June 30th.  In addition, he has recommended the closing of one of two county pension plans to new hires, a move he says could save the county $1-million over ten years.  Clark also trimmed back $45,800 in grants typically awarded through the executive’s office to non-profits and other community organizations.

Clark previously told WHYY’s Mark Eichmann that tax increases would not be part of his spending proposal.

County Council President Tom Kovach (R), who took office following a special election in January, says the difficult budget cycle also provides an opportunity.

“We spend 75% of our budget on current employees and retirees,” Kovach says.  He calls for addressing tough, longstanding questions:   “What size government can we afford.  If we shrink government, how can we do so and keep the government effective?”

Clark’s budget address is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Tuesday at the Louis L. Redding City-County Building on French Street in Wilmington. 

County Council’s finance committee will begin hearings on the spending plan Monday March 28th – click here for the schedule.

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