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3/26/2014
No property tax hike in Gordon's budget proposal - The News Journal

By Adam Taylor  The News Journal 3/26/14

New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon proposed a $172.7 million operating budget Tuesday night that is 3 percent higher than the current budget but does not call for a property tax increase to balance it.

The budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is $5.2 million higher than the current budget. New costs include a request for $500,000 to pay for a promotional campaign targeted at young people about the perils of heroin, and an $810,000 request to improve the functions of the Land Use Department.

About $2.1 million of the increase is for fixed salary and benefits costs. The new budget also includes salaries and benefits for seven paramedics and five police officers who were hired this year.

Gordon highlighted some new additions to the proposed $59.9 million capital budget. They include $12 million for a new library along Del. 9 just south of Wilmington and a total of $8.3 million in upgrades to Rockwood, Carousel and Glasgow parks.

Monday, Gordon said that estimates for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, point toward an $8.4 million surplus. He said he doesn’t intend to spend it all, however.

“While we are proud of the surplus, we must not over commit these funds until we see long-term recovery,” Gordon said. “The prudent thing is to repair our balance sheet, so if the economy should fall again, we can maintain our staff and service levels.”

Gordon said the heroin campaign would consist of public service announcements, billboards and other things, and would be patterned after an awareness campaign conducted in Montana about the perils of methamphetamine use. The majority of property crimes in the county are committed by heroin addicts looking for money to feed their habits, County Police Chief Elmer Setting has said. Gordon said the money would be well spent.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to educate young people about the horrors of heroin,” Gordon said. “They only have one shot, early in life, to not get addicted.”

Councilman George Smiley, co-chairman of council’s finance committee, said he’s empathetic to the problem, but doesn’t think the county should be paying for an ad campaign about it.

“Half a million dollars out of the county budget for that is very extreme,” Smiley said. “I can’t see it. The bottom line is, is there anybody out there, other than very young children, who truly doesn’t know that heroin is bad for you?”

Gordon said $400,000 for the Land Use Department would be used to hire someone to rewrite the Unified Development Code. Another $410,000 would go toward technology upgrades in the department designed to speed up the applications and approvals process.

“The way the department is set up is a mess,” Gordon said. “It needs a major makeover. We want the UDC to be a document and the department overall to be a place that is good for approving responsible development while also protecting the citizens.”

Smiley said he needs to hear more details about that spending proposal as well.

“I’m not sure we need to spend money to rewrite the UDC,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s that broken.”

Gordon said a new library along the Del. 9 corridor is long overdue. The money for the parks is for current and future county residents, he said.

Councilman Penrose Hollins said he supports all of Gordon’s new spending initiatives.

“I think $500,000 is a small part of what addiction is costing this government,” he said. “We should get more involved in these types of initiatives. As far as the other quality-of-life proposals such as parks and libraries, I think that when we can afford to do it, we should do it.”

Contact Adam Taylor at 324-2787 or ataylor@delawareonline.com.

 

 

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