State adopts a $2.82 billion budget


State legislators settled on big budget and bond bills very late on June 30 and very early July 1. And after Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s nod, Delaware had a business plan for another year. The operating budget balanced at $2.82 billion, up more than 7 percent from the 2005 fiscal year budget.

Education — $966.4 million

The Department of Education (DOE) topped all others areas of government spending, by far. Most of that will come to the schools via “Division I” funding, which is primarily used to pay teachers’ salaries. Division I accounted for $566.6 million.

The state will distribute another $68.3 million in “Division III” funding, or equalization. Indian River School District (IRSD) representatives have objected to their decreasing share in those monies – but the formula for redistribution is based in large part on property values, regardless the income level of families with school-aged children.

Pupil transportation costs neared $69.4 million and special-needs programs added to $63.2 million.

Health — $748.1 million

Between the DOE and runner-up Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), two departments accounted for nearly 61 percent of all state spending.

Medicaid accounted for more than half of the DHSS’s bottom line ($395.3 million). Public health personnel costs added nearly $56.1 million (mainly at Community Health, and the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill).

Substance Abuse and Mental Health personnel costs totaled $40.6 million, with contractual services in that group adding another $28.2 million. Developmental Disabilities Services personnel costs came to $30 million.

Under Social Services, nearly $28.8 million went for Child Care. The program is not necessarily for child-abuse cases — the state also helps families meet the extra demands that accompany children with special needs and supports potential breadwinners through training and job-retention initiatives.

Apart from those two massive areas for social spending, very few departments broke into the hundred of millions:

Higher education — $221.4 million

State support amounted to $221.4 million ($119.8 million for the University of Delaware, $36.7 million for Delaware State University and $63.2 million for Delaware Tech).

Department of Correction — $210.6 million

The $210.6 million budget for the 2006 fiscal year included a $16 million increase, targeting employee retention. Major outlays were for personnel costs at the prisons ($90.3 million, including $24.4 million at the Sussex Correctional Institution) and community corrections ($39.5 million, mainly for probation and parole personnel costs).

Executive Branch — $174.9 million

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) accounted for $157.7 million, and therein, the largest category was the salary/other employment costs contingency ($46.5 million). Gov. Ruth Ann Minner makes $132,500 per year.

Also under the executive heading, the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA), with a $39.8 million budget.

Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (DSCYF) — $106.5 million

Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS) — $102.6 million

Judicial Branch — $74.2 million

Superior Court carried the biggest budget (nearly $18.3 million), followed by Family Court ($15.8 million) and the Justice of the Peace Courts ($14.6 million).

There are five Supreme Court justices (one being chief justice) and their salaries average to roughly $182,000. The Court of Chancery has the same basic makeup (one chancellor, four vice chancellors), and average salaries there are $172,000.

There are 20 Superior Court judges (one president and 19 associates) — average salaries, roughly $165,000.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) — $38.1 million

These funds are primarily to run park facilities and replenish beaches.

Department of Technology and Information (the IT guys) — $33.8 million

Legal department —$35 million

Attorney General Jane Brady makes $136,600 a year. Personnel costs for her office made up $22.6 million, public defenders tacked on another $11.8 million.

Other Elective —$34.1 million

Lt. Gov. John Carney makes $73,100 annually, State Treasurer Jack Markell earns $106,200 and Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn $101,600.

Department of Finance — $18.7 million

Department of State — $18.1 million

Legislative Branch — $13.5 million

Representatives and senators earn $39,800 base salary, with additional compensation for the leadership (up to an extra $19,900, for the speaker of the House and Senate president pro tempore).

The Bond Bill

General fund aside, the state authorized an 8 percent increase in capital spending with this year’s nearly $835 million bond bill.

The lion’s share, $393.1 million, will go toward transportation projects. (Federal funds constitute another $91 million).

In addition, the state approved the sale of $101.3 million in bonds specifically for the DOE, including:

• $1.6 million for renovations at the Indian River Education Complex (IREC) in Selbyville.

• $866,000 for renovations at Lord Baltimore Elementary School.

• $3.5 million for renovations at Indian River High School.

• $502,000 for renovations at Frankford Elementary.

• $836,000 for renovations at Philip C. Showell Elementary.

The bond bill also appropriates $257.3 million for general funds, and $23.4 million of those are also earmarked for the DOE.

In that category, $39.7 million goes for Livable Delaware infrastructure, $13 million for full-day kindergarten and $1.5 million for HVAC repair at the new Sussex Central High School (100 percent state share).

Another $23.5 million gathers in the school bond reversion fund, and legislators also approved House Bill (HB) 302 on the last night of session. It provides the school districts with a $20 million supplement to offset the rising cost of new construction.

Grants-in-aid

The state also approved $42.8 million worth of grants-in-aid. The lion’s share of that went to volunteer fire companies, with the Bethany Beach, Dagsboro, Frankford, Millville, Roxana and Selbyville volunteer fire companies allotted between $110,000 and $140,000 apiece (depending on whether they have ambulance service, substations, etc.).

Roxana and Dagsboro volunteer fire companies also received small grants for an aerial truck and a rescue boat, respectively.

Additionally, grants-in-aid included:

• Ocean View Leisure Center — $91,000

• Roxana CHEER Senior Center — $95,000

• Roxana CHEER Senior Services-Homebound — $14,000

• Camp Barnes Inc. — $41,000

• Food Bank of Delaware-Kent/Sussex Counties — $34,000

• Interfaith Mission — $27,000

The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars each received $44,000. Disabled American Veterans, Delaware/Maryland Paralyzed Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America received $37,000.

These and several other veterans’ organizations also received grants-in-aid to help with operating expenses.