Milton Town Council has charged department heads with reducing their costs by 10 percent. The town budget featured a small surplus entering the Aug. 15 budget workshop, but Councilman John Collier said he wanted extra room to budget for important projects and unforeseen expenses.
“These gentlemen prepared these budgets so they should very well know if and where they added any fat,” he said. “Let them make the choice what line they want it to come out of, where they think they can take it, rather than us as a council arguing this line by line. Let's get their bottom line first.”
The reductions will not affect employees' salaries or capital improvements.
The measure was approved by a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Michael Coté opposed.
“I want to be real conservative with the income coming in, just like Councilwoman Patterson and I were last year,” said Vice Mayor John Booros. “We have a lot of things crawling down our back right now.”
Milton still continues to search for a new revenue stream. When council opted to not sell the wastewater treatment plant land to Tidewater in July, it was suggested the town lease the land or charge rent to the utility. However, Jones said she was told by Tidewater Vice President Gerard Esposito that any money the company spends on rent or lease would be passed back on to the customers.
“It was disappointing to hear, but it was a question that needed asking as we approach revenue,” she said. “If there was a chance that it would come back in our bills, I don't see it as an alternative.”
The current draft of the budget does not include items the council has not yet approved. At its Aug. 5 meeting, council lifted a hiring moratorium with the intention to add at least one more officer to the department. The police ad hoc committee has suggested that a new recruit be give a higher starting salary once completing the academy, but these costs have not yet been budgeted.
Collier, chair of the streets and sidewalks committee, also presented council with a list of projects his committee wishes to see completed in the coming year, including streets that need repair.
At the Aug. 20 public hearing on the budget, no residents opposed the 10 percent cut. Many, in fact, aired their approval of a smooth 2014 budget process.
“I just want to commend mayor and council for raising the bar of accountability and transparency during your first year in office,” said resident Gwendolyn Jones.
Milton's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. Council will meet again to discuss the budget at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 29. A copy of the town manager's draft budget can be found at milton.delaware.gov.