November 11, 2006
NCCo residents may face tax hike
New Castle County residents should brace for a property tax increase next year that likely will top 5 percent.
The county raised property taxes by 5 percent this year, the first hike in 10 years.
County law prohibits the executive from recommending a property tax increase higher than 5 percent in any given year, but that ordinance can be repealed with a simple majority vote by the 13-member County Council.
Council President Paul Clark said a repeal is something the council will consider.
“We’re going to be as frugal as possible,” he said. “But it may be higher than 5 percent.”
The county’s $230 million operating budget for this fiscal year, which began July 1, included more than $4 million in across-the-board cuts, no new capital projects and other spending reductions.
The group is looking at the possibility of selling county assets such as Carousel or Rockwood parks, or conducting a real estate re-assessment to adjust property values, which has not been done since 1983.
The group also plans to commission a study that will compare salaries and benefits of county employees to those in other counties and the private sector. Salaries and benefits account for more than 60 percent of the operating budget.
If you notice the date this article was published, it was the Friday after Election Day. Open government advocates like to focus on opening negotiations over the contents of bills to the public, but this is the more important information the public needs when making its decisions. The news was held back until after Election Day. It’s hard to believe that it’s been unknown that this was coming until after Election Day. The public should have been informed of this prior to Election Day so they could make a truly informed choice.
Now, this likely would not have made a difference in the results since only two county councilmen were opposed in this race and in neither case did either of their opponents break even 37% of the vote. But there at least would have been a public debate about the issue so the citizens could have been aware of the extent of the problem. Instead we get an article on a national holiday after Election when few people are likely to read it.
We seriously need to take a look at spending cuts and renegotiating some of these contracts with union personnel. Perhaps some positions can be left vacant through attrition if we’re not able to renegotiate contracts. Adn we’ll have to be tough in future negotiations so that we can reduce positions that aren’t needed any longer.
This problem isn’t a new one; it’s been building for years. Unfortunately, the problem was greatly exacerbated during the Gordon-Freeberry years where spending increased like there was no tomorrow. With the great spending increases in the state government over the past few years, we need to make sure that similar events don’t happen state-wide.