Delaware County commissioners on Dec. 16 decided to continue 2011 budget discussions into the coming week.

Delaware County commissioners on Dec. 16 decided to continue 2011 budget discussions into the coming week.

Newly seated commissioner Dennis Stapleton said he wanted to examine several cost-saving measures.

Commissioners continue to brace themselves for expected cuts from the state government.

"All that's going to happen is it's going to be pushed down to the local taxpayer," Stapleton said. "The local taxpayer is going to be hit in the townships, the school system, us, everyone else, to make up for what the state is not going to provide. I think we need to be prepared for that.

"Local government budgets are not unlike the state budget: There are only two or three areas you can attack," Stapleton said. "The state budget, 40 percent is Medicaid, 35 percent is education. Only two areas and you're talking about 80 percent of the budget. County budget is not a lot different. We only have a few areas we can go to."

The proposed budget is $72.2-million, with the largest component being the sheriff's office at $18-million, followed by road and bridge capital improvements at $15-million. County administrator Tim Hansley said commissioners planned to vote on the budget Dec. 27.

Both Stapleton and commissioner Ken O'Brien said their first review of the budget did not suggest any immediate areas to cut, although both said they would like to do so.

"It's higher than what I had anticipated or wanted, although I haven't found anything in it to be unreasonable," O'Brien said.

Stapleton also said he wanted to make changes that would put even more pressure on the budget, such as increasing the carryover amounts that act as savings accounts.

Stapleton said the county should have the goal of ending every year with 20 percent of the annual budget remaining unspent as a carryover balance.

"That's certainly not possible in one year, not possible in two years, maybe not possible in three years, but it's important to establish a safety net in funds that government carries forward."

Stapleton said he wanted to exceed even a six-month, or 50-percent, carryover if possible, but O'Brien said it was unlikely.

"I would love to have a six-month reserve, but I don't know if we're going to get that," O'Brien said. "It's a tremendous amount."

O'Brien said he agreed with using more planning horizons, including tying planning to collective bargaining agreements, which typically have a three-year duration.

"Not only do we need to look at 2011, we need to look out three years, we need to look out five years and then we need to look out 10 to 15 years not only as to budget, but what are the needs we have to address," O'Brien said.

The commissioners approved Thursday a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Job and Family Services bargaining unit that provides for no baseline pay increases apart from ordinary step increases.