Delaware County Council approved $135,000 to fund a new position as program manager of the Office of Community Justice and Rehabilitation (OCJR), but two Democrats opposed the spending.
“I support this position. I just don’t support the salary,” said Councilman Richard Womack Jr., who joined Councilwoman Christine Reuther in voting against the position. “I’m not sure where the salary’s coming from. My understanding is this position was never budgeted, and if so, I’d like to know where it was budgeted and how much it was budgeted?”
However, in that same meeting, the council unanimously approved a $125,000 salary for a manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Those jobs are just part of a surge of new hires by the county since Democrats took control of the council in a historic election in 2019, the first Democratic majority since the Civil War. In just over two years, the total amount being spent on county employees with an annual salary of $50,000 or more jumped by about $21 million, from $56.7 million in 2020 to $77.9 million in 2022, according to county information obtained from right-to-know requests filed by the Delaware County Republican Committee.
In 2020, 832 employees were being paid $50,000 or more. By 2022, that number was 1,121.
“That job is only a tip of the iceberg,” said Tom McGarrigle, who chairs the Delaware County GOP, about the new council liaison position. “When the COVID money dries up and it’s over, and the taxpayers have to backfill these budgets, the taxpayers are going to be looking at double-digit tax increases, year after year.”
Democrats point out about half of those jobs are a result of the county creating its own Health Department, a decision that will cost the county $10 million upfront and an estimated $8 million or so to operate.
The county has received close to $200 million in COVID relief funds and is in good fiscal health at the moment. But McGarrigle notes those dollars “are going to go away,” he said. “When they have to start paying the bills on the health department, on taking back the prisons, on these new positions that they’ve created, certainly they’ll have to raise taxes substantially to pay for the increase in operating costs.”
On April 20, the council followed up by unanimously voting to hire Michael Resnick to fill the position. While he recently worked for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, he spent most of his career working for the City of Philadelphia — most recently as acting commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison System
Reuther said she was concerned about how the salary for the new OCJR program manager would be funded. While she supports the new job, she said at the meeting, “It is not in line with our salary structure as if currently exits.”
Later, she told Delaware Valley Journal, “It is a new role, and reasonable minds can differ. My concern was largely budgetary. It was not a comment on the person hired who clearly had reason to expect a salary in that range. My thought was that the position as I understood it, did not need someone with Mr. Resnick’s obvious skills and experience and could have been filled at a lower cost.
“A majority of Council supported hiring Mr. Resnick at the salary of $135,000. Once the salary for the position was set by a vote of council I had no qualms about hiring Mr. Resnick. I think he will make substantial contributions to breaking down the silos of services that support the Delaware County criminal justice system, at least those services under the control and oversight of county council. I also hope that this role can lead to greater cost efficiencies in our system,” she said.
Vice Chairwoman Elaine Schaefer called the council’s changes a “momentous challenge in improving our criminal justice system. That is the hardest thing we’ve taken on.”
According to the county’s job announcement, the position involves using “data-driven strategies to identify and break down barriers to racial equity, increase opportunities for diversion and re-entry, and foster meaningful community partnerships.”