By Antonio Prado
Posted Apr 11, 2011 @ 10:44 PM
Last update Apr 12, 2011 @ 11:09 AM
Wilmington, Del. — The New Castle County Department of Special Services’ general fund budget proposal for 2012 would reduce spending by 2.66 percent compared to FY 2011.
The department plans to un-fund (or temporarily cut) five positions worth a combined $197,888, Acting Special Services General Manager Wayne Meritt said in a budget hearing held by the New Castle County Council Finance Committee Monday, April 11. In addition, the department would transfer three positions to other departments within the county – a savings of $151,132 – and reduce seasonal salaries and overtime, worth $20,800 and $53,915, respectively, Merritt said.
Special Services oversees the county’s capital construction projects, parks, sewer system, county-owned stormwater management facilities and fleet operations, including police cruisers. This includes more than 7,000 acres of land that comprises 258 parks, 10 libraries and 1,800 miles of sanitary sewer lines.
The Special Services budget request for salaries and wages anticipates the return of the 5 percent rollback in salaries for county employees as well as merit increases – offset by the cuts in positions, Merritt said.
Personnel costs comprise 53 percent of the budget, he said.
The department has 204.5 positions today, compared to 258 seven years ago, a 20-percent reduction in its workforce, Merritt said. The half position is for an attorney, whose other half shows up in the proposed, separate sewer budget.
“The challenge clearly is doing more with less,” he said.
Another big-ticket item is the line for materials and supplies, which would increase spending by 1.98 percent to $3.2 million, Merritt said.
However, the anticipated $205,400 increase in gasoline costs and $21,200 in diesel costs were calculated in October and November when gas was at $2.55 per gallon and diesel was at $2.75, Merritt said.
“In the most recent [purchase], gas was $3.08 and diesel was $3.39,” he said. “So, if that continues our numbers here are going to be somewhat suspect.”
There is also nearly $3 million budgeted for equipment replacement, a 5.96 percent increase. That includes the $1.4 million purchase of 117 new Ford Crown Victoria police cars, Merritt said. The police department has not bought any cars in two years; older cars have been placed online for auction.
New Castle County Councilman John Cartier (D-Brandywine Hundred East) asked if the Ameresco Energy Efficiency Project under way to make New Castle County greener was having an impact on the utilities budget.
The Ameresco project saved $200,000 in energy costs for the City/County building, said Special Services engineer Barry Nahe. He anticipates that other buildings will save money as well.
But New Castle County Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick (R-Hockessin) asked if the county sets its building to a certain temperature.
There is not one set temperature, Nahe said. For instance, the temperature had to be raised higher in the area of the City/County building above the garage.
“In general, we try to maintain it on average in the winter around 72, 74,” he said.
Kilpatrick urged the county to follow the example being set in residential homes.
“We’re probably seeing … the 68-degree range,” she said. “And in residential we see a significant reduction in costs between 70 and 68. Maybe we need to go down. Just wear another layer [of clothing].”
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