Budget hearings to begin Monday, April 9

A tax increase coupled with reduced services, the effects of a property tax reassessment, and other details on the budgetary process were some of the concerns voiced by Hockessin residents as New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer continues his whistle stop tour of area communities.

Facing a nearly $21 million deficit between income and expenditures, Meyer recently presented county council with his proposed 2019 budget, asking for a 15 percent property tax increase that would add roughly $68 per year to the average $433 bill.

Meyer’s proposal also asks for a 12 percent rate increase to the sewer fund operating budget to meet needs for increased personnel and benefits expenses, repairs, and rehabilitation projects, adding $30 more per year to an average sewer bill of $250.

The combined increase adds up to a total of $98 in property taxes and sewer fees for the average resident.

The proposal also asks for the ability to impose a 3 percent hotel tax, similar to the same tax in Wilmington – an action that would require a legislative change in Dover.

If council approves the property tax increase, it will be the first since 2009.

On Thursday, April 5, Meyer presented his budget to an audience of over 100 Hockessin area residents, and then fielded questions submitted by audience members.

Most of the comments expressed concern that more cuts should be explored before considering of a tax hike.

One resident’s suggestion of shutting down parks and libraries, however, brought a chorus of “No!” from a number of other attendees.

Without the proposed increase, Meyer has painted a grim picture of deeper cuts to county services, which includes reduced paramedic response times, the closure of a dozen smaller parks, the shuttering of the Rockwood Mansion, and the cessation of mowing at 207 county parks and public locations.

Meyer also explained the differences in property tax rates for incorporated and unincorporated areas in the county, gave information on reporting illegal sewer connections and unpaid sewer bills, and what was being done to collect $13.6 million in outstanding property taxes.

The final budget is due for adoption by June 30.