contrary, he told Delaforum, his successor will take office with
a financial cushion "unparalleled anywhere in the country" and
should be able to extend Gordon's pledge of no tax increase,
made when he took office nearly eight years ago, well into the
be [many] times greater than what was left for me to work with
when I came into office. ... We've been able to make a complete
turnaround in eight years," he said.
"If I was
going to be here, I would increase it (the surplus)," he added.
Being only partly facetious, he said the amount could be as much
as doubled from its present level during the coming four years.
he would accomplish that, Gordon replied, "Keep on doing what we
have been doing."
Gordon also told Delaforum that,
before he leaves office in January, he intends to advance at
one more major proposal
-- to increase the number of senior citizens
eligible for county property tax exemptions.
He was not specific
about the details of what he will propose, but said
he expects County Council to approve the proposal.
"Who's going to vote against it?" he asked
Gordon is not eligible
to seek re-election. County Council president
Christopher Coons, a Democrat, and Republican
Christopher Castagno, president of the council in
the city of New Castle, are vying to succeed Gordon.
As previously reported, Coons has called for
restraint in tapping into the surplus to finance
unbudgeted spending and Castagno advocates
aggressive economic development as a
County and city
officials gather before a ceremonial check-passing
to mark the first installment of a public safety
grant. From the left they are: County Executive Tom
Gordon, chief administrative officer Sherry Freebery,
Mayor James Baker and City Council president Ted
Blunt. County Council president Christopher Coons
did not attend the ceremony.
broaden the tax base and support his own pledge not to raise
taxes if he is elected.
current tax rate in unincorporated areas is 45½¢ for each $100
of assessed property value.
finance director Ron Morris told County Council's finance
committee on Sept. 28 that combined surpluses fell from $242
million to about $230.5 million during the fiscal year ended
June 30, 2004. At the present rate of spending, he said, county
government will have about $17 million in reserves going into
fiscal 2010, but the portion of the reserves earmarked to
preserve the property tax rate will be gone. The 20% statutory
reserves for both the general fund and the sewer fund and the
so-called 'rainy day fund' will remain, he said.
to preserve the tax rate, the surplus has to be used to finance
what are expected to be annual operating budgets, which are
expected to run deficits beginning with this year's.
said that the budget surplus "isn't a political issue." He
called it the result of prudent fiscal management.
not wasting it. The money is going to libraries, parks and
police," he said.
that the county has a large surplus, has a relatively low tax
rate and hasn't had to raise taxes during his two terms in
office were the major contributing factors to its most recent
bond issues having been given the highest rating by all three
prestigious Wall Street rating firms, he said.
the presentation by Morris, a key member of Gordon's
administration, to the Council committee did not conflict with
his views, Gordon would only say that Morris was speaking as a
professional finance manager, a role in which "he has to be
Gordon and Morris have said they expect to garner another
triple-A rating for an $80 million bond issue which Council on
Oct. 5 authorized to be taken to market, probably before the
end-of-year rush in the tax exempt municipals market. Earlier
this year, the county went to that market to borrow $100
million. The general obligations bonds are paid off serially
over a 20-year period.
coming issue drew some initial criticism because it includes
money to pay for the county's $15 million share of the buy-out
of property owners in Glenville whose houses were destroyed by
flooding during the September, 2003, storms; $10 million for a
nature education center on the Christina River waterfront in
Wilmington; and $1 million for Iron Hill Museum.
coming bond issue and subsequent ones will have a negligible
impact on the tax rate. Payment of principle and interest on
bonds amounts to somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% to 12% of
the general fund budget, which this fiscal year anticipates
spending $207.5 million.
spoke to Delaforum at a ceremonial check-passing event marking
payment of the first $7.5 million of a $15 million three-year
grant to Wilmington city government for use in financing public
safety, including a recently approved pay increase for city
police officers. Although the traditional oversized check was
presented, the actual payment was made, in keeping with current
banking practices, as a wire transfer.
told an assemblage of city and county officials that the event
was particularly significant as it marked the culmination of a
"trend away from fighting one another over who was going to
[provide] what services to a cooperative relationship."
is part of the county. For some reason, that's a hard fact to
get across to some of the citizens of the county," he said.
Wilmington Mayor James Baker said that both New Castle County
and the state have important stakes in the well-being of the
city. "Without strengthening the city of Wilmington, we're only
hurting ourselves," he said.
[Gordon] and Sherry [Freebery, the county government's chief
administrative officer] have been great to work with," Baker
said. He said he hopes that the next county administration "will
work for the common good [and not] look out for [its] own
Councilman Robert Woods, who chairs the public safety committee,
said County Council "stands committed to assisting the state to
take care of your (Wilmington's) long-term interests."
told Delaforum that nothing has yet been done to follow through
on Governor Ruth Ann Minner's stated intention to reconvene the
taskforce set up two years ago to recommend long-term solutions
to the city's fiscal problems. The mayor said he doesn't "look
for much to happen" before the November elections.