New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon's office, the County Audit Department and most of the NCCo Row Offices presented departmental budgets for 2014 that fell within the standard 3 percent to 4 percent rate of inflation during the budget hearings held recently by New Castle County Council.
The executive's office oversees all of county government; the Row Offices are composed of the individually elected offices of the New Castle County sheriff, clerk of the peace, recorder of deeds and register of wills. And the county auditor reports directly to New Castle County Council.
NCCo Sheriff Trinidad Navarro was the only Row officer to propose a budget that would actually decrease spending by 1.13 percent for the 2014 fiscal year to $1.89 million during the budget hearings held April 10 in the City/County Building. Navarro said that was due mostly to the fact that the memorandum of understanding between New Castle County and the state of Delaware requiring the county to pay $100,000 annually for the presence of Capitol Police in the New Castle County Courthouse would expire on Oct. 31, 2013. That would reduce the 2014 payment to $33,334, Navarro said.
In addition, sheriff' sales were down, Navarro said. He pointed out that the day before (April 9) his office set up 109 sheriff's sale and sold 60 of them compared to 350 properties put up at the same time last year, selling about a third of those, Navarro said. He said the Delaware General Assembly's mortgage remediation law had helped reduce mortgage foreclosures.
"I'm very happy about that," Navarro said.
Salary and wages for the Office of the Sheriff would decrease 0.12 percent, but benefits would increase 6.59 percent.
The executive's office proposed a $2 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year budget, a 4.35 percent increase compared to the 2013 fiscal year, NCCo Chief Administrative Officer David Grimaldi said. Salaries and wages would increase 2.16 percent, but that was primarily because the CAO's salary was moved from the law office back to the executive office, he said. (Within the preceding Clark administration, the county attorney was also the acting chief administrative officer.)
The Gordon administration recommended keeping the same 14 positions authorized for 2013, he said.
In response to a question posed by Councilman John Cartier (D-Holly Oak), Grimaldi said five of those positions were vacant of as mid-March.
During the Audit Department budget hearing, County Auditor Robert Wasserbach recommended a 3.87 percent increase to $374,531 for FY 2014. Salaries and benefits would account for much of the increase, as they would both increase 8.9 percent ($13,445), Wasserbach said. That money would pay for raises as well as increased costs in benefits, but much of the money would be used to employ a college intern, he said.
As for the Row Offices, NCCo Clerk of the Peace Kenneth Boulden presented council's Finance Committee with a budget document that called for a 3.07 percent increase in spending to $651,869. Boulden then spent his time debriefing New Castle County Council on his belief that marriage equality legislation would go through the Delaware General Assembly by the end of May. Boulden also said the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act would also have an effect.
Page 2 of 2 - In sum, the legislation process would have an effect on revenues, but he did not have an exact figure in his budget for council. Fees for marriages and civil unions are $50 for Delaware residents and $100 for out-of-state residents, Boulden said.
Boulden also advised council that a bill had been introduced in the General Assembly by State Rep. Deborah Hudson (R-Fairthorne) to eliminate his elected office but not his department. Boulden said he had seen this kind of politics before and he felt confident he could weather this storm as well.
Recorder of Deeds Michael Kozikowski recommended a 1.6 percent increase for his office to nearly $2.27 million. He said the bulk of costs – 87 percent – would be for personnel, similar to the rest of New Castle County.
Salaries and wages would actually decrease 0.62 percent within the Office of Record of Deeds, but employee benefits would increase 6 percent, Kozikowski said. He recommended remaining at 27 positions, similar to 2013.
Register of Wills Ciro Poppiti proposed a 3.44 percent increase to $1.5 million for 2014. Of that amount, nearly 93 percent of that amount would be wrapped up in personnel costs, Poppiti said. Salaries and wages would increase 1.13 percent while employee benefits would increase 7.92 percent for the Register of Wills' staff of 19.