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1/11/2012
County Administration planning no tax hike: Weiner: Clark policies weighted too heavily in favor of developers - News Journal

"Never in my 20 years on council has a county executive seeking election asked to address the council twice," said Bob Weiner, one of three Republicans on the 13-member council. "This speech was an obvious election-year ploy that no one in recent memory has ever employed."

Clark also said "a more efficient development review process" is coming, a notion that made Weiner cringe. Weiner thinks the Clark administration's policies are weighted too heavily toward developers already.

"I'm sure applicants will get through the new approval process even more quickly than they do now," Weiner said.


NCCo's Clark planning no tax hike
Projected 2011-15 deficits brought down from $71M to $27M
Jan. 11, 2012  Comments ADAM TAYLOR The News Journal

WILMINGTON -- New Castle County Executive Paul Clark told County Council on Tuesday he plans to introduce a budget for the 2013 fiscal year that does not include a property tax hike for residents.

Clark's remark came at the end of his 28-minute State of the County address, which is a new event. The county executive's annual budget address, delivered in March, usually serves as a State of the County speech as well. In addition to Tuesday's speech, Clark said he will still give a budget address in March.

"I am hopeful that, with your help, we can give the citizens of New Castle County another year with no reduction in services -- with no tax increase," Clark told the council.

The current budget, Clark's first, didn't raise taxes.

Some feel that Clark departed from the single-speech tradition of past county executives because he is up for election this year. Clark, a Democrat, automatically succeeded to the position in November 2010 when Chris Coons left the post for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Clark had been council president at the time.

"Never in my 20 years on council has a county executive seeking election asked to address the council twice," said Bob Weiner, one of three Republicans on the 13-member council. "This speech was an obvious election-year ploy that no one in recent memory has ever employed."
Clark said the idea wasn't politically motivated.

"It really was to send a message to residents and businesses that New Castle County is in good financial shape," he said. "It's also a good time, before the budget season, for the council and myself to reflect."

Clark said the county is in much better financial shape than when he took office nearly 14 months ago. When he took office, the projected deficits for the 2011 to 2015 fiscal years totaled $71.2 million. The deficit projection for that time period has been reduced to $27.1 million, Clark said.
Clark said the county's reserves would have been gone by 2015 had his administration not implemented a series of cost-cutting measures, which include pension reforms, threatening layoffs if county workers didn't agree to 2.5 percent compensation cutbacks and other initiatives. The new projections show that there would be $22.8 million in reserves in 2015.

"We have positioned New Castle County to be an island of stability in the rough waters of today's economy," Clark said.
Council President Tom Kovach, a Republican who is seeking a seat in the U.S. House, said he doesn't think Clark's financial projections are accurate. 
Even if they are, he said, $27.1 million in deficits between now and 2015 is nothing to brag about.

"How do you get up here and laud a plan like that?" Kovach said after the speech.

Kovach said Clark's financial strategy since he's been in office hasn't gone nearly far enough. More should have been done to control health care costs for county employees and cuts in the workers' pension plans should have been deeper, he said.

"His plan to date, and the one he set forth tonight for the future, kicks the can down the road and doesn't address the serious structural conditions in the county's budget that got us where we are today," Kovach said.

Clark said he thinks his administration has done a good job with the county budget, and had made improvements in the government's customer service and public safety functions.

This year, the focus will be on jobs. A "jobs stimulus program" will be announced soon, Clark said.

Clark also said "a more efficient development review process" is coming, a notion that made Weiner cringe. Weiner thinks the Clark administration's policies are weighted too heavily toward developers already.

"I'm sure applicants will get through the new approval process even more quickly than they do now," Weiner said.
 


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