NCCo Exec. Gordon calls for no tax increases in budget address

By Jim Hilgen, Tom Lehman 8:49pm, March 19, 2013 - Updated 10:10am, March 20, 2013
County Executive Tom Gordon delivers his Fiscal Year 2014 budget address
County Executive Tom Gordon outlined his budget priorities before County Council Tuesday night.

Gordon has some good news for county residents in this year's nearly $251 million spending plan. He says there will be no tax increases.

"You can't afford to raise taxes. This economy, if you haven't noticed, the national economy, the state economy and the county economy, city economy is affected by all those great agreements we made years ago where everything left. What's left here is a service economy," says Gordon.

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Gordon is also planning to expand police capabilities by negotiating a mutual agreement with Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams that will see county police officers sworn in as city officers and vice versa.

"There should be a flow. If there's a crime in progress in Edgemoor and a Wilmington officer, he should be able to come out, contain the scene until help arrives, and that kind of mutual arrangement can happen now because of the computers. We didn't have this kind of technology years ago," Gordon says.

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Gordon says he's adding 19 new positions, but he's certain the county will save money.

"Bit I will make the case to you that we're contracting out. we're going to save $400,000 after you put all their salaries in, subtract that out we're going to be saving money, and if we can't prove that, cut it out of the budget." he says.

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He says too many county dollars are going to business outside the county.

So, in hopes of boosting the local economy contractors from the county will be doing more business with the county.

"In this county, we give out millions of dollars. It doesn't go to local vendors, doesn't go to local people. I've been spending four months trying to figure that one out, and I can assure you, I will figure it out, and every penny that we give out will go to some local vendor," says Gordon.

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Gordon called for a spirit of cooperation in asking County Council to work with him in taking the county's needs to lawmakers in Dover.

He is also looking to reopen county parks for public events so the taxpayers will once again see some benefit from their tax dollars.

The Fiscal Year 2014 Budget is 3.24% higher than the current budget.

Spending increases include the rising costs of healthcare plans for employees and retirees and the county's increased pension contribution.

County Council members react to proposed budget

County Council members say they're looking forward to seeing more information regarding the budget as the process continues.

"Overall, I would have liked to have seen more details but we'll get into that. But the biggest thing for me as council president is that he came with an olive branch, that he wants to work with us," says New Castle County Council President Chris Bullock.

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Bullock thinks Gordon's idea that county-sponsored events and programs at parks should be brought back will benefit local communities.

"In a down economy, people need to feel good about the government, but we can't do everything...we hope to do some things to give them a more positive outlook on life, particularly in New Castle County," he says.

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Councilman and finance committee co-chair George Smiley says he still needs to see a more complete breakdown of county finances before properly responding to Gordon's proposed budget, but he's already concerned about some aspects of the spending plan.

Smiley says that Gordon's suggestion that the county bring back events and programs for residents is a good idea, he noted that it will be hard to support if the budget can't afford it.

"I understand wanting to feel good programs, but they cost money, and a lot of the people in New Castle County have woken up over the last eight years and now recognized that they pay for these programs," Smiley says.

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He also noted that he's concerned about the spending of reserve funds and worries that it will eventually lead to a large tax increase in years to come.

"He's anticipating taking $4 million out of the general fund and $2 million out of the sewer fund," he says.

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