Bill to abolish Kent County comptroller post moves forward

DOVER — Legislators agreed to release from committee Wednesday a bill eliminating the position of Kent County comptroller.

The other two county comptrollers were abolished more than four decades ago.

Kent County officials say the position is unneeded. Its elimination would save approximately $150,000 per year.

The position itself is an elected office, with two employees also serving in the office. One spot is vacant, and Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange said Wednesday the other employee would be moved to the Public Works Department.

Current Comptroller Georgette Williams plans to retire once her term expires in January.

Williams by .

Georgette Williams

The office used to be the “financial heart” of the county, she said, but most duties are now handled by the Finance Department. Computers have made the post redundant.

“Right now, what we are doing in our office is in most cases triple or quadruplicating checks that have already been done over in finance several times,” Ms. Williams said. “The duty of the comptroller is to make sure that money is being spent wisely. It’s not being spent wisely.”

Several legislators tried to remove the office in 2010, but others protested, and that attempt failed. This legislation is sponsored by Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover.

After less than 10 minutes of discussion, members of the House Housing & Community Affairs Committee agreed to release it to the chamber floor.

In a separate hearing, representatives heard a push to slow the growth of Delaware’s budget.

A bill from Rep. Ronald Gray, R-Selbyville, would restrict budget growth based on the average of the U.S. Consumer Price Index over the past three years and the average of three years of population change in Delaware. Appropriations deemed emergencies, such as something involving public health or safety, would not be limited.

Had the measure been enacted starting with fiscal year 2013, the budget recommended for the upcoming year would be no more than $4.02 billion, $90 million less than the $4.11 billion proposed by Gov. Jack Markell.

“We should match the budget to what the private network is, what the private businesses are doing,” Rep. Gray said.

Peter Schwarzkopf

Peter Schwarzkopf

Democratic leadership was skeptical, however, with Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, noting, “You can’t run government like a business.”

“The problem is is that you’re dealing just solely on CPI and population growth. There’s so many other things that drive a budget,” he said. “Increase in school populations. All about formula and how much we get for increase for teachers.”

The House Administration Committee agreed to table the bill while Rep. Gray conducts some further research, including on whether any states currently use the proposed method to craft their budgets.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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