Sussex County Delaware
Minner Orders 3%
Cut in State Spending
 
Sussex Beat, Sept. 17, 2002

NOTE: Sussex Beat is a log of news briefs and commentary by Kerin Magill, editor of Sussex County Online, with contributions from Sussex County Online users.

CURRENT SUSSEX BEAT:

Kerin Magill, Sussex County Online

By KERIN MAGILL
SC Online
Editor
Delaware Budget

Anticipating a $95 million shortfall in state revenues, Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2002 ordered a 3 percent spending cut for the current year.

Minner made the announcement from South Africa, where she is participating in a trade mission, after the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Committee lowered the state's revenue forecast by $95 million on Monday, Sept. 16.

The committee cited lower values of companies incorporated in Delaware and lower personal income tax revenue.

In her announcement, Minner said she will also personally review all hiring proposals.

"A change in the revenue forecast this drastic requires immediate action to ensure that the budget remains in balance by the end of the fiscal year," Minner said.

She added the shortfall "shows we absolutely did the right things by rejecting calls in the spring to spend more than 98 percent of our revenues or to dip into the Rainy Day Fund."

Minner said if the state had done either of those things, "this problem would be tens of millions of dollars worse."

A memo Minner sent to state agencies Tuesday ordered:

  • A three percent reduction in the overall fiscall 2003 budget, which began July 1. Each agency will be given its own budget-cut target, so the order won't mean a 3 percent cut for each of them.

  • An intensive hiring review in which the governor, the budget director and the personnel director will decide which job vacancies will be filled.

  • Continued efforts to trim spending without affecting services, such as measures already taken, which include pooling health care contracts, reducing unused portions of contracts and reducing the number of cell phones.

  • Minner said she will meet with all four General Assembly caucuses to discuss the ramifications of the revised revenue estimates.
County Council Meeting

In the wake of announcements of a $95 million shortfall in state coffers, Sussex County Council discussed complaints from citizens about apparent cutbacks in services at state parks.

Council member Vance Phillips read a letter from residents about conditions at Phillips Landing State Park near Laurel. The letter cited problems with lack of trash receptacles, as well as with public consumption of alcohol and with "out of control" all-terrain vehicles in the park.

The residents are seeking, among other things, increased police patrol in the park and an end to the "carry-in, carry-out" policy now in effect in state parks, which requires visitors to take their trash with them.

Council member George Cole said he recently heard similar complaints from residents about cutbacks in service at state parks. Cole said it rankles him that 80 percent of state parks income comes out of parks in Sussex County, "and it goes elsewhere. "I think we ought to make sure the portion that comes out of Sussex County comes back," he said.

Cole suggested that CountyAdministrator Robert Stickels write a letter to state officials expressing the county's concerns. Stickels said he would, but cautioned the council that with the budget shortfalls, it may not make much difference.

In other business, the council heard from a resident of the Swann Keys community west of Fenwick Island who was upset about areas in the neighboring Bayville Shores development being elevated several feet, causing flooding in Swann Keys. The resident was referred to the Sussex Conservation District, which oversees such activity.

In addition, the council approved a bid of $120,988 for a 40-space addition to the South Coastal Library parking lot in Bethany Beach.

The council also approved the following grant requests:

  • $500 to Bethel Historical Society;
  • $500 to the Indian River High School Volleyball Boosters;
  • $100 to the Sussex Central Wrestling Boosters for a golf tournament sponsorship;
  • $200 to the Southern Sussex Rotary for Project Dictionary.
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