These days, Delaware County residents—and Americans writ large for that matter—have become numb to news about outrageously high government budgets and taxes. But when even the controller from the same political party repeatedly calls Delaware County Council’s spending decisions into question, residents should know it’s well past time to sound the alarm.

Since last year, the Delaware County Council has been on a spending spree that is likely to increase the county real estate tax by 20% or more over the next several years. 

This past year, legal bills jumped from $400,000 under the previous Council to $2,200,000. Payrolls increased—up by more than two million dollars from last year—and the County Council has added millions of dollars in new consultant contracts. 

Early indications are that those increased man hours that county residents paid such a high price for are not leading to a more efficient government. Reports show that the new health department building in Yeadon will cost the taxpayer 40% more than what the owner was asking for in rent when the building was on the market

And this year was just the start. A look at the county 2021 budget forecast reveals projected expenditures of $355,000,000—a $30,000,000 increase over 2019’s actuals.

The thirty million dollar increase does not take into account two major projects: the $10,000,000-a-year health department, and a new public prison that will easily cost the county between 10 and 20 million dollars per year.

Since last year, the Delaware County Council has been on a spending spree that is likely to increase the county real estate tax by 20% or more over the next several years.

Furthermore, the conty-run Fair Acres Long Term Care Facility is running significant deficits in the wake of a pandemic and the County Council is looking to impose new rules on the solid waste authority that could add $12,000,000 a year to their budget.

So why have we not seen a tax increase yet? So far, it’s been because of federal government handouts.

In 2020, the county used $22,141,402 of CARES Act funding to hide their reckless spending, deceptively shifting normal expenses to Covid funding (e.g., moving payroll costs to a separate fund). Fair Acres received $4,967,731 in Covid-19 Provider Relief funding. This totals $27,109,133 in temporary federal grant funding.

That means that absent the one time federal grants, the county would have had a $27,000,000 dollar deficit. 

By 2023 the federal money will be used up, and the taxpayers will have to make up the difference for all long-term spending commitments. That difference —the $27,000,000 plus the cost of the new programs mentioned above— is likely to increase the average county real estate tax bill by hundreds of dollars per year. 

A few hundred more in taxes might not seem like much to the affluent progressives who control the County Council, but to many of our citizens it will be a significant burden. This is the great irony of progressive governance at the local level, where you can’t just print money and run massive deficits to fund the expansion of government. Such “progress” is necessarily funded by the most regressive forms of taxation, which affects the vulnerable among us the most, by far. 

Wally Nunn is the former Chairman of Delaware County Council and Delaware County Jail Oversight Board Member.

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