My wife and I, separately and together, attended the five Dover City Council meetings that produced the budget presented for its first reading on Monday, June 8.
The budget provides for additional police personnel, for essential vehicle replacements, for infrastructure maintenance and improvement, and the many services we receive from the city. It also covers wage increases for the collective-bargaining units’ employees and those not covered by a negotiated contract.
Based upon the information learned from the intense and detailed discussions during these five meetings, none of these items, including wages, seem excessive. The proposals demonstrate staff and council’s concerns for citizens’ safety, security and wellbeing, and for Dover’s hard-working employees.
An extensive chart provided by the city appeared on pages 3 and 4 of the Delaware State News of Monday, June 8.
It features clear and concrete examples of the effect of the proposed 6.72-cent increase, meaning from 33.78 cents to 40.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. (This is a 19.9-percent increase, down from the original 24 percent).
The median assessment in Dover is $135,500; the proposed rate amounts to a property tax of $548.88 per year or $1.51 per day total contribution to the city of Dover services and general welfare of its hardworking citizens and employees — simply put, a 26-cent increase per day. You can’t even buy a pack of Juicy Fruit gum at Acme for that amount of money!
Bear in mind that this is the first city tax increase in several years. Past councils chose to tap other funds to avoid raising taxes, a sometimes-convenient, seemingly necessary but generally short-sighted path to take.
In his letter to the State News of June 12 [“Concern for taxpayers of Dover”], Councilman (Brian) Lewis expressed his appreciation for the hard work of council during the five meetings. We strongly feel that the Dover city manager and staff, who worked diligently to create and revise (pare down) the budget, also deserve appreciation from the citizenry. Mr. Lewis also endorsed Councilman Anderson’s suggestions in trying to lower the rate increase to 5.5 cents/$100; all reasonable suggestions should be considered.
However, during the second of the two meetings he did attend, Mr. Lewis simply asked the city manager for items already in the budget materials or for clarification of presentations made in his absence. Mr. Lewis did not offer any specific suggestions or ideas, although several other council members and the mayor did so.
It is incomprehensible that a councilman would deliberately choose not to explain to his constituents what the proposed increase actually would mean to each who asked, especially when simple arithmetic provides the answer.
Fewer than 10 members of the general Dover population were present at any of the five public meetings.
Some suggest, as does Mr. Larry Koewing in the June 16 Delaware State News [“Dover tax plan should be last resort,” Letters to the Editor], that “agency bloat” seems to exist; that agencies may no longer be needed and/or are overstaffed. Regardless of their successes or failures, he feels that agency or staff cuts should be made. Attendance at these meetings would have provided much more than the “cursory examination” on which he bases his conclusions.
We feel that these agencies serve the citizens well with limited, efficient, and courteous staff. Which services provided by Dover’s “agencies” would Mr. Koewing — and any of the citizens who immediately railed against the tax — suggest giving up in order to decrease or eliminate the June 8 proposal?
The Dover city manager and staff and the City Council have bravely chosen not to again tap emergency funds or to put things off until they become much more expensive. Theirs was a hard but well-considered choice.
Alan and Janis Gaddis