New Castle County Executive budget proposal focuses on public safety, capital improvements
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer presented his 2020 budget proposal to County Council Tuesday. The spending plan totals just over $375 million for next Fiscal Year.
That’s a three percent increase in the general fund budget and a four percent increase in the sewer fund budget over this year.
There are no new property tax increases in Meyer’s 2020 budget, but the controversial fifteen percent hike he sought last year— and County Council agreed to phase in over two years— will be completed.
The proposed capital spending includes funding for the new Southern Library to be built in Middletown.“The population in that area is growing,” said Meyer. “The community and the city and town councils are all eager to collaborate to build an extraordinary community learning facility. We’ve made a commitment, evaluated a site, purchased land.”
Meyer says the biggest budget increases are more than $4 million of additional debt service and over $3 million of additional personnel costs, including an increased pension contribution.
Other increases revolve around parks and paramedic and fire services.
“As the calls for service and financial demands on the county fire service increase day in and day out, my proposed budget includes an overall increase for the fire service of $200,000, including funding for the first time for ladder trucks,” said Meyer.
The budget proposal also includes $48.5 million of Sewer Fund capital spending to "reduce sewer overflows, increase capacity and expand service" across the county.
County officials point to increased revenue through a hotel tax approved last year and an increased state reimbursement rate for county paramedic services. Meyer says his administration plans to work with state legislators to restore a 50/50 cost share for paramedic services.
Meyer's administration projects that the County's tax stabilization reserve would remain "reliable ... for the foreseeable future" with the proposed 2020 budget. Projections from county officials put the reserve at $21.7 million in 2020 and $19.8 in 2021. According to officials, the County maintained more than $45 million in reserves from 2013 through 2015.
"With these stabilization funds, there's a fine line that we walk," said Meyer. "You obvioulsy want to some cash reserves. But I actually don't want our cash reserves to get too large, because that means that we're charging taxpayers money and then just putting it away as tax reserves."
County Council President Karen Hartley-Nagle says she feels positive about this year’s budget proposal. “We’re going to go through it,” she said. “And it looks to me like something I could support.”
The County will hold a series of public town halls on the budget proposal.