Delaware County budget: Elected officials resolve to keep costs down in 2021

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

Delaware County's government will experience some belt-tightening in 2021.

The county commissioners on Dec. 21 approved a 2021 budget that's 5.3% less than that of 2020 for combined operating and capital expenditures. The total of $119.2 million includes a 1.2% increase for operating expenses.

 "When we started the budgeting process, we set out a goal to have a fairly flat budget for 2021, as our revenues in 2020 were fairly flat and ... more similar to what we received in 2019," county administrator Michael Frommer told the commissioners. "We want to go into 2021 to keep our expenses down so that we can allow our revenue to recover to pre-COVID(-19) levels, and I think that we accomplished that. ...

Delaware County Commissioners building

“Also, one of the things we want to do moving forward is to have quarterly and semiannual reviews of the budget. To have like a mini hearing to review the status ... I think it's a good way to go," he said.

County communications director Jane Hawes said factors affecting the 2021 budget include:

• A $624,141, or 3.6%, increase in health-care costs for employees.

• Resumption of work on the Delaware County Byxbe Campus, a planned facility at the site of the former Delaware Area Career Center North on state Route 521. The campus will house the county’s engineering and development offices, as well as administrative headquarters for the sheriff’s office.

• Completion of work on the renovation of the Historic Courthouse, which will become home to the county commissioners, their staff and the Delaware County Veterans Service Commission.

The commissioners said the county government's other elected office holders played a role in cutting planned expenditures to make the new budget work.

"I recognize the role of the other elected officials ... because they had a big role in this, in keeping their expenses down and even making some cuts near the end. So thank you," commissioner Barb Lewis said.

 "I think this process has gone very smoothly in what's a very difficult time," commissioner Gary Merrell said.

He also read a statement he had prepared for a news release on the budget: “The unique thing about Delaware County is the spirit of ‘we are all in this together.’ And because the commissioners and elected officials work well together, we have produced a conservative budget that still keeps our great county moving forward to the ultimate benefit of our taxpayers/county residents. There is a recognition that COVID issues could still affect us in 2021. This budget allows us the flexibility to address any unexpected issue.”

Commissioner Jeff Benton wrote in the news release: “We asked our office holders and directors to find reductions that would enable us to still make progress with the strategic initiatives we had already begun, while keeping operating expenses as close to flat as possible. They have come through with those reductions and we feel this budget will position us to rebound quickly when conditions normalize.”

"I really like the quarterly review (for 2021) because in 2020, this point last year, who would have envisioned the crazy year 2020 turned out to be? And we're not out of this yet,” Benton said during the meeting. “We'll keep a real close eye on it in 2021 because who knows what's coming next?"

He continued.

"Revenues have recovered pretty much. We're not looking negative, but ... who knows what will come? ... We're being fiscally prudent in these challenging times," he said.

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