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5/15/2007
Bob Weiner supports dramatically reduced capital budget plan

Coons finds support for capital budget

Majority of NCCo Council members say cuts to 2008 spending plan are necessary

By ANGIE BASIOUNY, The News Journal
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Castle County Council members sailed through a hearing Monday on the county's proposed capital budget, which calls for $72 million in cuts over the next six years.

The budget contains no big new initiatives, instead focusing on 17 priority projects including the completion of Glasgow Park, Brandywine Hundred sewer rehabilitation and the rebuilding of Kirkwood Library.

"The significant budget cuts are warranted, given the current financial condition of the county," Republican Councilman Robert Weiner said during the 30-minute hearing. "I think my constituents understand we have to protect the core mission of county government, and other needs simply have to be deferred to a day when we are on more secure financial footing."

County Executive Chris Coons proposed the dramatically reduced capital plan as part of his strategy for tackling the county's spending deficit. Although the county pays for capital projects by selling bonds, the borrowed money is paid back by taxpayers through the operating budget.

Keeping those payments low will help the county maintain healthy finances, he said.

Council is set to vote May 22 on the capital budget, the operating budget and the tax rate. The next fiscal year begins July 1.

Councilwoman Stephanie McClellan, a Democrat, described the modest capital plan as "responsible," and said she would support it.

The proposed 2008 capital budget is $11.5 million, compared with the current budget of $58 million.

Councilman Bill Powers, a Democrat whose district includes a large portion of southern New Castle County, said he remains concerned about the lack of funding for items in his district. Wiggins Mill Park, for example, was downsized last year from a $7.1 million project to a $1.6 million project.

"You can hear from people in my district, and most of them say they don't want a tax increase," Powers said. "But they say, 'What about the services?' "

Coons' proposed $228 million operating budget includes a 17.5 percent property tax increase, which would raise the the average annual tax bill by $60, from $342 to $402.
Contact Angie Basiouny at 324-2796 or abasiouny@delawareonline.com.

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