New Castle County Council passes budget, but not without debate

New Castle County Council has passed a budget for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1st.  However, there was one vote against it – from the Council President. 

The plan does not contain any increase in property taxes, but increases the sewer fee by 3.9%.  County Council President Tom Kovach (R) cast the only “no” vote on the budget, which was approved 12-1.

New Castle County Executive Paul Clark (D) said the new general fund budget results in the smallest county workforce in ten years, with the elimination and defunding of 76 vacant positions.  The overall budget will decrease by nearly $600,000 from the current fiscal year.

“We balanced the budget using no reserves,” Clark said.  “And, we did not cut any of the public safety areas.  As a matter of fact, we actually have more public safety employees on the street than we had in the past.”

“I appreciate the members of council who supported this balanced budget, and we will continue working in the months ahead to address the county’s long-term fiscal health,” Clark said.

Kovach said although the budget contains no hike in property taxes, the sewer fee hike is, in effect, a tax increase.  He also said projected over several years, New Castle County would face a multimillion-dollar deficit if this type of spending continues.

“75-percent of our operating budget is personnel costs,” Kovach said.  “If we’re going to seriously reduce our operating budget, to match up with what have been dwindling revenues in the county, as any good business would you have to reduce your expenses.”

According to Clark, negotiations are underway with the county’s seven unions to give back 2.5% of their salaries in the form of extra payments toward their healthcare, some flexibility in work rules and measures designed to reduce overtime incurred by employees.

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