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Delaware County taxes to rise 7.4%

Taxes will go up 7.4 percent in Delaware County next year after the County Council unanimously passed a $309 million budget yesterday.

Taxes will go up 7.4 percent in Delaware County next year after the County Council unanimously passed a $309 million budget yesterday.

With many local and school taxes rising as well, several county residents asked the council to take a closer look before passing the budget.

"It's well known that the population has suffered," said David Bevan, an Upper Providence resident who said he helps elderly residents with their taxes. Bevan told the Council that it was "not your job to exacerbate" the economic conditions.

Council Vice Chairman John J. Whelan said the board had no control over many of the factors that caused the spike.

"I can tell you without a doubt, the hardest thing for Delaware County Council is when we have to raise taxes," he said. "We did our best to minimize the tax increase."

With the millage increasing to 5.184 mills, homeowners in the county will pay on average $48 more annually in taxes, bringing the typical annual bill to about $680, Executive Director Marianne Grace said.

The tax increase will yield $10 million in additional revenue for the county.

Much of the tax increase will go toward court costs, which make up 42 percent of the budget and have steadily risen as more criminal and civil cases have been filed, Grace said. The extra money also will be used to cover higher contributions to the county pension program, and to help make up for reduced investment returns from the poor market in the last year.

The county also plans to spend $400,000 to improve its 911 emergency communications system, which now covers all 49 municipalities. The system's operating costs have increased as the coverage area has expanded, Grace said.

The County Council also approved a four-year contract with union employees that includes 3 percent raises each year. The workers, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, are paid between $15,000 and $45,000 in annual salaries, Grace said.

Councilman Andy Lewis voted against the raise this summer.

"I didn't think anybody in this economic climate should be expecting or looking for a raise," Lewis said Monday.

Yesterday, Broomall resident John Butler asked why council members, who work part time, receive health-care and pension benefits.

"No full-time benefits for part-time people," Butler said. "I'm really offended that County Council is getting health care and a pension."

The county held the tax rate even last year when the economy soured. Council enacted a hiring freeze for non-essential personnel 18 months ago, and about 140 county positions have been left vacant to trim costs, Grace said.

But for some residents, the efforts are cold comfort in the face of a larger bill due.

After the council passed the budget, Council Chairwoman Linda A. Cartisano tried to explain how the state's reliance on property tax limited the council's options for the budget. As she spoke, Bevan stood, started to speak, and then walked out.