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New Castle Co. Council passes 2019 budget with phased-in tax hike

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
County Executive Matt Meyer signs the County's operating budget for FY2019 after it passes County Council

New Castle County Council narrowly approved a FY2019 budget Tuesday.

The compromise spending plan, which features a 15 percent property tax increase effectively phased in over two years, passed by a 7-5 vote, with one council member absent.


Several council members, including John Cartier, called the budget proposal the best option under the circumstances.

“Doesn’t please everybody, and that’s the great thing about a compromise,” he said. “It was brought forward by the ideas suggested by members of council who didn’t want to vote for a 15 percent tax increase, preferred a phased-in tax increase over two years.”

County Executive Matt Meyer’s original proposal, which would have raised property taxes 15 percent in a single year, was rejected by council last month.

“Our initial proposal was not to touch the tax stabilization reserve. The compromise proposal touches the tax stabilization reserve a couple million dollars this year, but then stabilizes it next year and going forward,” he said.

Councilman George Smiley co-sponsored the substitute budget ordinance.

Smiley says it takes into account money the county expects to save through a cap on the first-time home buyer real estate transfer tax exemption, and anticipated increased revenue from a hotel tax.

He also notes Council could decide next year to take even longer to phase in the 15 percent increase.

Multiple residents voiced support for the tax increase during public comment, noting it preserves county services they value. But one raised concerns about the tax hike decreasing affordability for home-buyers.

County Council also unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing the issuance of bonds to finance several capital projects for the next fiscal year, primarily sanitary and stormwater facilities.  

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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