County to maintain sales tax rate; freeze spending

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By Matthew J. Perry
Bracing for the effects of a deepening financial crisis, the Delaware County Board of Supervisors voted last Wednesday in favor of an expenditure freeze for the 2009 budget and to continue collecting an additional one percent sales tax for the next two years.

The county must submit a formal request to the state legislature to extend the sales tax levy. The increase was first approved in October of 2003 and has been renewed twice since then. The supervisors’ resolution cited the continuation of the sales tax (four percent) as a means to “keep the property tax at a reasonable level.”

Hamden Supervisor Wayne Marshfield said that the county took in $1 million less in sales tax during 2008 than it had the previous year. “We desperately need to keep this in place,” he told the board. “Could 2009 be worse? It’s not looking good.”

The loss of sales tax revenue was cited as a factor that makes the freeze a necessity.

The second resolution calls on county department oversight committees to review all expenditure requests, but does allow for funds to be committed to necessary business. The freeze is to extend to new hires and currently vacant positions and equipment purchases. Travel requests are to be curtailed and departments are bound to spend money only on “purchases that are absolutely necessary to conduct county business.”

Delhi Supervisor Peter Bracci described the resolution as a proactive measure that prepares the county for the worst possible news from the state, which is struggling with its own budgetary crisis and has warned of many possible cuts. “We’re trying to control the process,” he said. “Of course, we’ll fill the necessary vacancies.” By tightening spending controls now, he argued, the county hopefully can avoid layoffs in the future.

“We’ll be trying to protect the employees we have for as long as we can,” said Colchester Supervisor Bob Homovich. “But our number one job is to protect the taxpayers.”

Tax amendment