Early in 1995, as a recently elected County Councilman, I was sitting in my office and my assistant brought a letter to my attention. The letter was from an elderly woman who lived in Lansdowne. She asked if there was a way to pay her real estate taxes in installments, as her income was only $8500 per year and her real estate taxes were $3200 per year.

Having grown up in an Upper Darby row house with a young, widowed mother of four children, I understood her dilemma: every dollar was precious. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do to help her. However, every decision I made over the next eight years was made with her in mind.

When you sit on County Council, many requests are brought to you. Most of these requests are not frivolous — though a few are — but all come at a cost. Unfortunately, County Council gets most of its funding is from real estate taxes, the very tax standing between that elderly lady and perhaps medicine or food or just peace of mind. Every dollar spent on a new program was a dollar I had to take from someone. As I knew from my own experience, it isn’t just the elderly who suffer from the burden of high real estate taxes. Young working-class families, like the one I grew up in, also face difficult times. Every dollar counts to these families.

READ MORE: Delco Dollars — The county is on a budget-busting run, likely to result in major tax increases or service cuts in the coming years

A few hundred or even a thousand more dollars is of little consequence to the elites of Radnor or Swarthmore. Consequently, it is easy to concern themselves with “woke” issues, as the cost of implementing them will just raise the real estate tax a little bit. Delaware County Council is now under control of the elites, and we are about to be handed a big surprise.

The chart below shows the 2022 County Budget. Looking at the Total Department Expenses, you can see that expenditures went from $156 million in 2019, the last year of Republican control, to $188 million in 2022, an increase of $32 million. Since that chart was released, County Council increased the general fund budget by $6 million and the new Health Department by $10 million. Additionally, the budget director informed the Council he would be coming back for more as the prison budget needs to be increased. Total up these additions and you may have a budget up at least $40 million — but likely much more. If I’m right, real estate taxes may increase by 25 percent or more in the next few years.

So far, the County has been able to spend more money and not raise taxes because the federal government has sent them a giant cookie jar. The cookie jar contained $210 million dollars of Covid relief money. It is difficult to parse expenditures exactly, but their figures show that they have used at least $50 million of those dollars along with $10 million of fund balance to mask the massive increases in spending. That Covid money will run out soon, I bet not before the next County Council election, and you will get the bill.

Working class and elderly Delco residents might be interested in some of the increases Council has implemented.

Democrats constantly complain about the “corrupt Republicans” giving legal work to friends. In the last year of Republican control, the County paid for $400,000 of private legal work. In the first year of Democrat control, over $2 million of legal work was given out — five times as much as under Republican control. Some went to Ballard Spahr, where Councilwoman Christine Ruther once worked and which is now led by the husband of Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon. Duane Morris is another firm the county sent legal work to, and you might be interested to know that David Landau, the former head of the Democrat party in Delco, is affiliated with the firm.

My question to County Council: if the Republicans were corrupt, are you corrupt on steroids?

A small band of advocates have lobbied for years to take back public control of the prison because they could somehow improve the life of the prisoners and do it cheaper. They ignored the statistics put out by the State Department of Corrections that the privately run prison was one of safest prisons in Pennsylvania, if not the safest. Council hired a new warden from a prison whose record was much worse than Delco’s private prison. One of the first things to happen after the transition was the first prisoner-on-prisoner murder in the history of the prison. The County will no doubt be sued for the incident, and who will pay? The taxpayers.

I plead with Council: Stop your profligate spending. You are spending real money and taking it from your constituents, some of whom can’t afford it.

The County has also been on a hiring binge. In 2019, the general administration budget was $16 million. In 2022, it is $26 million. Much of the increase is to pay for new hires, really — a vast increase, even accounting for inflation.

Finally, recall that in 2010, the County had Johns Hopkins, one of America’s premier institutions, advise them on the need for a Health Department. The advice: it was not necessary, as all of the needed functions were in place, and the County should just do a better job of coordinating the functions. The new Council ignored that advice and has budgeted $18 million to fund the new Health Department for 2022.

I plead with Council: Stop your profligate spending. You are spending real money and taking it from your constituents, some of whom can’t afford it.

Wally Nunn is the former Chairman of Delaware County Council, a former member of the Delaware County Jail Oversight, and is currently the chairman of the Broad + Liberty board of directors.

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