“This is actually quite challenging for us, and will continue to be, to have a very big impact on our budget,” said Delaware County Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer in the Delco Times last week.
The councilwoman was speaking about new increases in the cost of operating the county prison. As previously reported here at Broad + Liberty, Council and its vaunted consultant told us that taking over the prison would reduce costs to $43,000,000 annually. Instead, it looks like the bill will come to more like $60,000,000, or $17,000,000 more than predicted in the next budget. A budget that Council will, no doubt, wait until after the election to unveil. Open government, indeed.
So what’s $17,000,000 more for the prison? It only adds about ten percent to the county real estate tax.
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The councilwoman might also have mentioned her pet project, the Health Department. Johns Hopkins University said the new health department was not needed, as all the services it would provide were already being provided. The county just needed to better coordinate what already existed. But, no — our council thought they could do a better job than the state and other providers. For that reason, we now have a health department that is adding $10,000,000 to homeowners’ taxes.
In fairness, they have done a few things that were not being done. For instance, earlier this year, they gave out free condoms. Unfortunately, I’m 80. Oh well.
Gosh, now we are up to $27,000,000 heaped on the backs of our citizens.
Of course, despite these increases, the county might be able to keep taxes down as they are going to do away with Republicans’ so-called “corruption tax.” Every other word out of the council candidates in the last election seemed to be “corruption tax.” They gave examples of the county giving legal work to friends and contributors. Indeed, in the last year of Republican control, $400,000 in legal work was given to law firms.
The new Council certainly changed the system in 2022 when they gave out $3,200,000 to law firms. They sent $425,000 to Ballard Spahr, a no doubt worthy firm that has raised money for at least one councilwoman and is run by Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon’s husband. It seems the council has raised the “corruption tax” by close to $3,000,000.
So, now we have up to $30,000,000 in new taxes that we will need to pay for all this.
Had enough? There’s more. Consultants have been hired, and the bureaucracy has been expanded, with multiple new hires making more than $100,000. In fact, the council has been on a spending binge and has had little or no thought as to what it was doing to the citizens they were sworn to serve.
These additional expenditures will easily add $20–30,000,000 to the tax burden. Added all up, the taxpayer is going to have to come up with $50–60,000,000. Of course, Council could make massive cuts, but are we really holding our collective breath for that?
Councilwoman Shaefer’s comments may signal a recognition that they actually have to pay for all their ill-thought-out decisions. Rumors around the courthouse suggest that they are trying to figure out how to blame the Republicans for the need to raise taxes by 35–45 percent over the next couple of years.
If one looks dispassionately at the facts, it is clear Delaware County Council, with willful disregard for its citizens, is an irresponsible body.
Wally Nunn is the former Chairman of Delaware County Council and a former member of the Delaware County Jail Oversight Board.