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2/5/2009
Brandywine Hundred residents call for tax hike - Community News

By Jesse Chadderdon
Community News

Posted Feb 05, 2009 @ 10:55 AM
Last update Feb 05, 2009 @ 03:32 PM

Brandywine Hundred, Del. —

Bob Weiner has never voted in support of a tax increase in his 12 years on New Castle County Council.

But that could change this year if the Brandywine Hundred councilman heeds the call of his constituents Wednesday night, who overwhelming favored paying more, rather than losing any of the county services they’ve come to rely on.

More than 100 residents packed a conference room at the Brandywine Hundred Library for the latest in a series of listening campaign stops – where County Executive Chris Coons, Council President Paul Clark and Weiner spelled out the government’s financial troubles and asked for feedback as to what to do about it.

In December, the county announced it was closing libraries on Sundays and rolling back hours during the week, one of several mid-year cuts made in response to sagging revenue projections. A budgeted $17 million shortfall – which was to be paid for with county reserves – has ballooned to $32 million as the housing market has continued to slide and sharply diminished the county’s real estate transfer tax revenue.

Many of the residents who spoke were boosters of a particular county facility, like Rockwood Park, the libraries, or the Talley Day Bark Park, but across the board, their message was the same: We’re willing to pay more for them.

“We need to help,” said resident Mary Headley. “Our county taxes are only one quarter of the property taxes we pay, the rest is for schools. So we all need to get out and be heard when the schools want to raise our taxes, but right now you need to raise our property taxes.”

Bill Rowe, who moved to Delaware from Ohio four years ago, said he is amazed by how low his county taxes are – about a quarter of what he paid in the suburbs of Cleveland.

Another resident, who moved from Massachusetts 42 years ago, said he paid more in county taxes in 1967 there than he does today in New Castle County.
“Should we raise taxes? Maybe we should,” he said. “My wife would probably shoot me because I’m retired and on a fixed-income, but maybe its time we ante up.”

The average county tax bill in Weiner’s 2nd Council District this year was $535 this year. That’s almost $400 less than many people’s annual cable bill, Coons said.

John Beatty offered up a more balanced approach.

“There may be a need to raise our property taxes, but let’s try to match any increase with cuts,” he said. “I think if you go about it that way, you’ll still be on the right trajectory.”

A straw poll taken at the end of the meeting revealed nearly unanimous support for some kind of increase. Of those voting, 62 said they supported paying as much as $20 more per month if all county services remained intact. Another 35 said they’d support a smaller increase coupled with limited cuts. Only five said they opposed any increase at all.

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"I am grateful for Bob's decade-long support for the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, which follows Philadelphia Pike and Market Street into Wilmington. His presence and influence at the birth of our Delaware organization to develop this trail and to have it designated as a National Historic Trail was a key factor in keeping our hopes for the trail alive and growing."

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