In a virtual presentation forced by novel coronavirus COVID-19 Tuesday night, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer presented his Fiscal Year 2021 budget address which, while heavily addressing up-front the concerns caused by the global pandemic, included no tax increases.
"While I will describe later the highlights of my Fiscal Year 2021 budget, it is also important that we act immediately – within this fiscal year – to battle COVID-19 on multiple fronts," Meyer said.
With a presented $209 million operating budget and $84 million sewer budget, Meyer said his administration's ability to stabilize the reserve balance and replenish it up to nearly $40 million was a blessing in the face of coronavirus-related challenges.
"Many of the assumptions of our...budget are rapidly changing," he said. "We will work with county council in the coming months, as we see how our revenue projections change, and as we first make immediate investments to preserve our community through this crisis."
The county executive, while thanking the hard-working health care workers guiding us through these uncertain times and all the volunteers working within their communities to address any variety of needs, called for the passage of four emergency ordinances to respond to the crisis.
"Fortunately, we have taken action to prepare us for this moment. Hard decisions made in the past two years to build our county tax reserves now give us access to resources to fight this crisis, to keep our community safe, to protect the most vulnerable, to keep our county employees healthy and to turn around our economic fortunes," Meyer said. "We worked hard to enhance that reserve, doubling it to nearly $40 million in the past 18 months alone, so that it would be available in times of crisis. Now it is time to use it."
His proposals included:
- Providing a half-million dollars in funding to Rapid Response efforts established by united Way, Delaware Community Foundation, Philanthropy Delaware, the Longwood Foundation, and the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement
- Providing a half-million dollars in funding for Emergency Rental Assistance through a partnership with Governor John Carney and the Delaware State Housing Authority
- Providing $1 million in Emergency Supply Purchases to acquire PPE, testing kits, and other technology and medical equipment necessary for first responders and health care workers
- Funding of an undefined amount to provide Emergency Financial Relief to residents and businesses for things like deferral of certain fines, fees, penalties and taxes
Hours after his address, he signed the above four emergency ordinances into the law.
He also announced the county would seek to double the size of the seasonal public works jobs program to fill workforce gaps and put large projects out to bid as soon as safely possible to get people back to work following record unemployment levels.