Kent County approves $496.1 million budget for 2021

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The Kent County Board of Commissioners approved its 2021 annual budget.

The total budget is $496.1 million and includes $425.1 million for operating expenditures, of which, $12 million is for capital improvements.

“The fiscal and public health impacts of COVID-19 have been devastating to our community, making the budget process challenging,” said Mandy Bolter, chair of the Kent County board of commissioners. “However, our long-standing tradition of responsible budgeting, high credit rating and investments in rainy day reserves have placed the county in a good position to respond to the crisis and maintain services to residents.”

The Kent County Strategic Plan was the foundation for the development of the budget, which allocates resources to programs and services that support the plan’s five goals. A few of the budget highlights are:

Economic prosperity

  • The county’s percentage of debt outstanding to the state equalized value was 1.07% as of Dec. 31, 2019, which is below the constitutional limit of 10%.
  • A 7.4% decrease in the clerk’s office because there are no statewide or national elections occurring in 2021.

High quality of life

  • A 3.2% increase for the sheriff’s office to cover additional overtime and foodservice expenses at the jail, an upgraded tether program, implementation of in-car cameras and body camera system and adoption of an automated and equitable scheduling system.
  • Added a full-time division director position to oversee operations at the animal shelter.

Excellence in service delivery

  • $170,000 increase for an e-filing system for the 17th Circuit Court.
  • Added a part-time indigent defense administrator’s position to improve the legal representation of adults facing criminal charges who cannot afford an attorney.

Inclusive participation

  • Despite the pandemic, the 2021 budget process was an open and inclusive process. Budget meetings were held virtually with residents encouraged to submit public comment through e-mail, phone or the in-meeting chat function. Closed captioning also was available at the meetings to ensure all county residents could address the board during these unique circumstances.

Effective communication

  • Added a communication position mid-year to assist in delivering more timely information to residents and to increase meaningful public participation.

“These are undoubtedly difficult economic times due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt said. “The commitment of our elected officials, department directors and judiciary to hold the line on budget increases while minimizing reduction in services to our residents continues to be exceptional.”

Additional budget information

An operating millage of 4.2243 was used as part of the revenue estimating process, which is the same rate that was levied in 2020.

The general fund budget for the operating and capital needs is $192.3 million, reflecting an increase of 2.3% from the previous year.

Staffing increases were only added for a few critical areas with demonstrated need.

The county retained its triple-A-credit rating for the 22nd consecutive year.

The General Fund budget is structurally balanced, meaning it supports financial sustainability for multiple years.

The complete budget narrative is available at accesskent.com.

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