Readers of this blog will remember back in January when we did a story on a report from the Wilmington News Journal confirming an allegation made during the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign that New Castle County was broke. Dace Blaskowitz, a political independent, found that the "NCCo government is simply unsustainable" and that the answer to their rampant overspending has consistently been higher and higher property taxes and sewer fees. You may also remember that Mr. Blaskowitz found that 75% of New Castle County government costs are tied up in personnel and that is after a 2.5%paycut in 2009 and anotherin 2010.
Blaskowitz suggested a reduction in staff levels and contraction of benefit obligations yet New Castle County has gone on a hiring spree lately. He also suggested some minimal concessions from the unions with regard to pay/benefits might be necessary to close the gap between revenue and expenditures. The Clark Administration has said that it will work with the unions but that it is getting serious about the County finances. Today however, sources within the County unions confirm that a deal has been reached and will be signed tomorrow. The deal is reported to be a two year deal with county employees contributing $1200 per year to a healthcare savings fund. In exchange for this surcharge payment, county employees will get a 5% increase (covering their two 2.5% reductions in the past 2 years) plus 3 new paid fulough days each year. County employees will not have any holidays or current off time taken away. Sources say that County Council Executive Paul Clark will sign the deal tomorrow afternoon.
Does this mean that our County finances are back in order? Just a month ago when County Council passed the FY 2012 budget, Clark was talking about another 2.5% cut and other concessions from the unions. In fact, his budget passed, despite strong opposition from Council President Kovach with the specific plan to make those cuts. Kovach cited concerns that the budget did not properly address the current debt and also questions as to how unions would rollback 5% of their pay and then agree to ANOTHER cut of 2.5%. Also, is it possible that the 3 extra paid furlough days are equal to that 2.5% cut?