Georgetown will head into its next fiscal year with a balanced budget that requires no tax increase for residents.
The Town Council unanimously approved the roughly $6.1 million budget at its April 10 regular meeting.
Resident Tony Semeraro thanked the council for steering clear of a tax increase.
"I think what it projects is good stewardship, but also stability, especially for the business community," Semeraro said. "That's something we can trumpet a little bit, because it shows we're trying to use our resources wisely while we're still improving the town."
The initially proposed budget showed a projected deficit of $385,839, which was eliminated by several changes made by the council earlier this month.
On the revenue end, the council agreed to a $100,000 reliance on real estate transfer tax funds. In previous years, said Town Manager Gene Dvornick, the town's reliance on this fund has been zero. The council also agreed to use about $117,000 in sewer impact fees to offset debt.
To cut expenses, the council removed from the proposed budget a new part-time receptionist position and several vehicles requested by town department heads.
The town's 2 percent spending cap was also eliminated.
"We had instituted a couple years back that, as a town, we would not appropriate any more than 98 percent of our anticipated revenues," Dvornick said at an April 8 budget workshop. "We've not been able to do that as of yet, due to the economic downturn."
The current fiscal year ends on April 30, and the new budget goes into effect the next day.
During the budget process, the council received updates on Georgetown's past, ongoing, and future infrastructure projects, some of which are taken into consideration when the town allocates its funds.
Water Service Line Replacement
The $2.2 million water service line replacement project, which is intended to address main breaks and leaking service lines, has been completed. The project, which began in August 2012, was funded by a loan through the Delaware Division of Public Health's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The loan approved for Georgetown comes with no interest and the principal was forgiven entirely at the completion of the project.
South Railroad Avenue Well and Treatment
The $1.5 million South Railroad Avenue well and treatment project is currently underway. An existing well located next to Sussex Correctional Institute that has high iron levels will be abandoned for a new well on South Railroad Avenue, in an area with lower iron levels. Dvornick said the town has conducted testing to identify locations for the wells; however the wells have not been drilled and the treatment facility has not been constructed. It is unclear as to when this project will be completed, but Dvornick said a pre-construction meeting at which the project will be discussed is scheduled for this week. This project is also funded by a loan through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, therefore its principal will be forgiven upon completion.
Page 2 of 2 - King Street Water Treatment Upgrades
The $3.3 million King Street water treatment upgrades project is currently in its design phase. The upgrades will bring the water treatment plant into compliance with more stringent, state-mandated quality standards proposed to take effect in 2014. Dvornick said work will not begin on this project until the South Railroad Avenue well and treatment project is complete. This project is also funded by a loan through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, therefore its principal will be forgiven upon completion.
Inflow and Infiltration
The $1.7 million inflow and infiltration project has only made it through the initial study phase. The project will address additional flow into the town's system from storm water runoff and groundwater infiltration through leaks in pipes. Because replacing all of Georgetown's sewer lines will cost far more than $1.7 million, Dvornick said the town is "doing a little bit at a time" and is focusing on problem areas. The lower cost fixes, Dvornick said, will be completed and the town will figure out where to go from there, depending on its money situation. Of the $1.7 million that was approved by residents in a December 2010 referendum, $839,000 is a grant and the rest is a loan that must be repaid.
Funding leftover from the water service line replacement project has been approved by the state for use to replace the town's water meters with models that have a longer battery life. Dvornick said the town will replace meters until they run out of money. The meters have been ordered, installation should begin within the next two weeks, and the project is anticipated for completion by July 3.
Margaret Street Improvements
The $199,700 first phase of the Margaret Street Improvement project is expected to go out for bid within the next two months. Dvornick said the streets sees a lot of pedestrians, but there is no curb, gutter or sidewalk. The project will be done in three phases. The town has been approved for a $139,790 grant from the state's Community Development Block Grant program. The program requires a 30 percent project total match, therefore the town will be responsible for $59,910. The match will come from state municipal street aid, which does not have to be repaid.
Town Hall & Annex
It's been estimated that the town will have to spend as much as $1.7 million to renovate Town Hall and convert the building next door into municipal offices. However, before the town can do anything, a referendum must be held to get permission from the residents to borrow that money. Dvornick said the referendum will be held in the fall of this year.