of the major building projects currently in New
Castle County government's capital-spending plan are
in jeopardy and most will go forward on or close to
their previously announced timetables, according to
Chief financial officer
Michael Strine said just shy of 70% of the $93 million
authorized for eight major projects in the capital component
of the general fund but not yet spent and about 75% of $133
million unspent on nine major capital projects financed from
the sewer fund will be likely be spent during the next 18
Included will be completion
of the public safety building in Minquadale in early 2007;
the new Woodlawn library in September, 2006; the new
Kirkwood library and expanded Hockessin library in
September, 2007; the expanded Bear library in April, 2008;
and Glasgow Park by the spring quarter of 2007.
Spending on major sewer
projects in this and the next fiscal year includes $28
million toward expanding the sanitary sewer network south of
the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal; $15 million for
rehabilitation in northern Brandywine Hundred and $10
million in southern Brandywine Hundred; and $15 million on
After presenting County
Council's finance committee a report of a recently completed
review of the capital program by a committee of
representatives from each of the county's operating
departments that he chaired, Strine said residents can
expect "modest change ... done through timing" in what they
have been expecting in the way of parks, libraries and
County Executive Christopher
Coons is fully committed to delivering on past promises
while restructuring the process for deciding future
commitments. Strine said.
Coons was quoted in a media
statement issued by his office after Strine's presentation
describing the review he ordered as "one step we're taking
to responsibly deliver services to the taxpayers."
The executive will present
his budget proposals to Council in January and Council, in
the normal course, will act upon them in May.
Strine told the Council
committee on Nov. 8 that an immediate step is to shift $4.3
million out of the general fund budget this fiscal year and
to add $1.l million next year. That, he said, can be done
administratively. According to the report, those figures do
not include "cost increases likely [to be] needed for [the]
public safety building or southern sewer [infrastructure],
which are significant under-budgeted."
The most significant deferral
will be $3.4 million for the planned Wiggins Mill park and
$6.1 million for the southern regional library. They are
listed in the report as needing additional planning and
assignment of "more realistic" target dates for
That did not sit well with
Councilwoman Patty Powell, who represents one of two Council
districts covering areas south of the canal. She said after
the committee meeting that that part of the county, while
acknowledged to be the premier growth area, is the most
neglected when it comes to planning public amenities.
Strine said a needs
assessment and planning for the library is to begin
"immediately" with completion now projected in 2010.
Powell also questioned county
government's commitment to preserving farmland through
acquisition of easements requiring that future sales of the
land be only for agricultural purposes.
The report disclosed that the
county plans to go to the bond market in late January or
early February to borrow $70 million and to return to the
market with another bond issue in late 2008 or early
2009 for another $20 million. Proceeds will go to help
finance capital projects.
Key among several management
recommendations in the report is one calling for inclusion
of the anticipated fiscal impact on operating budgets of
proposed capital projects during the years immediately
following their coming on line.
The report said that the
study found that it was county government practice since
2000 to "dramatically" increase capital authorizations
beyond its ability to deliver or pay for the promised
authorizations this fiscal year total $336 million to be
spent over six fiscal years and sewer fund authorizations
are $420 million over the same length of time. The general
fund running total declined from a record $343 million in
fiscal 2005 while the sewer fund running total increased
sharply to an all-time high from $282 million a year ago.
While there are unspent
authorization balances in several of the 68 general
fund projects and 61 sewer fund projects those balances are
concentrated in large projects, the report said.
Debt amounts to six-tenths of
1% of assessed property value in the county. It is 8% of the
general fund budget and is $667 per capita. Both amounts are
considered to be low.