The Delaware County commissioners on Thursday approved a 2014 budget.
Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of approving the $82.3 million budget that will fund the county’s operations through next year. The budget includes $28.8 million in salaries and $13.4 million in benefits.
Commissioner Ken O’Brien voted against the budget, saying he felt spending levels are too high.
The county is set to bring in $77.5 million in revenue next year, and the carryover from 2013 will bridge the gap between expenditures and appropriations. County officials expect the carryover to be about $19 million
“Until we know the amount, we shouldn’t be spending more money than we know will be coming in,” he said.
O’Brien also took issue with the fact the budget did not include funding for an upcoming project to extend sewer from Nelson Farms subdivision west to Sawmill Parkway. The project is slated to cost approximately $5 million. County officials are exploring the possibility of borrowing for the project and using a rate increase to pay off the debt incurred.
“I don’t think the sewer users should pay for the developers’ benefit,” he said.
While he voted to approve the budget, Commissioner Dennis Stapleton said he is concerned about the amount of money budgeted for road and bridge projects in the county with several other big ticket items that will need to be addressed in coming years, including the possibility of a new courthouse.
Delaware County Engineer Chris Bauserman’s road and bridge fund was appropriated nearly $19 million for 2014, an amount Stapleton said is “almost approaching obscenity.”
“I just don’t think we can continue to shovel cash into roads and bridges,” he said. “If we have to scale that back, we have to scale that back.”
Although county officials plan to move some of the appropriated money into the budget stabilization fund after the first of the year, Stapleton said those funds were not already moved to the account in the budget. He said building a reserve could, in some cases, be more important than some of the large projects on the county’s radar.
“If we have to scale down other major projects, I’ll be the first in line to say that,” he said.
The 2014 budget is the first that new Commissioner Gary Merrell had the opportunity to help craft, and he called it “a fiscally responsible budget that addresses the needs of the county.”
“It’s an opportunity for us to do really great things for our county,” Merrell said.
Each of the commissioners complimented the county’s elected officials and department heads for their efforts to keep their budget requests at reasonable levels.
“How we spend our dollars in the good times determines how we spend them in the bad times,” Merrell said.