New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer has announced a plan to save the county $2.5 million on a farmland preservation deal.
The previous New Castle County Executive had allocated $3 million to preserve two farms in the Port Penn area, but some county residents had criticized the cost and selection process in that deal.
Now, Meyer is letting that agreement expire and investing $500,000 of those funds in Delaware’s Farmland Preservation Program.
He said the state selection process is transparent, which should help the county avoid criticism it’s playing favorites with politically-connected landowners. And it’s competitive, which will drive down the cost to taxpayers.
“What the statewide program does is they effectively create a market where landowners have an incentive to reduce their price,” he said.
Meyer said the cost savings of using the state program should allow the county to preserve just as much farmland for a sixth of the cost.
"And even though the county is partnering with the state farmland preservation program, it will still retain control of how its $500,000 is spent," Meyer said.
The downside of this plan is that the state is currently facing a $350 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. That could reduce the amount of money available for farmland preservation.
A clearer picture of how the county will spend the remaining $2.5 million should emerge after budget negotiations in the next few weeks.