The Sussex County Council unanimously approved a proposed $117.7 million budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.
The county’s property tax rate of 44.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, set in place in 1990, will remain the same.
“The budget continues Sussex County’s long tradition of prudent, measured spending while ensuring essential public services remain the best value around,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson. “Sussex County is tremendously proud of the fact that, unlike many others, we can continue to run efficiently and effectively with a tax rate set a generation ago. It’s a tremendous feat.”
The budget includes altered sewer fees for some residents. According to county spokesperson Chip Guy, the county provides public wastewater services to more than 57,400 customers. In most cases, Guy said rates will go down by as little as $4 to as much as $163, depending on the district served. In a handful of cases, however, sewer rates will increase by $6 to $15, again depending on the district. These changes are the result of paid off or renegotiated loans on construction of the sewer systems.
For the upcoming year, general fund revenue and funding sources increased by $3.7 million, or 8.1 percent compared to the fiscal 2013 budget.
The average county tax bill for a single-family home, as listed in the adopted budget, is $107.74. For a manufactured home, the average bill is $40.66.
The budget states the estimated total property tax revenue has increased by 10.1 percent due to the addition of new construction being placed on the tax assessment rolls and the rebate being applied in fiscal 2013.
The realty transfer tax revenue for fiscal 2014 is budgeted to be $16 million, which is a $4.8 million increase from the fiscal 2013 budget
According to officials, it is estimated Sussex County will collect $18 million in realty transfer taxes in fiscal 2013. The uncertainty of the housing market had officials budget only 88 percent of what is expected to be collected. Officials plan to transfer $500,000 of what’s collected in realty transfer taxes to the Capital Projects fund to pay for future needs.
Officials say grants from other governmental agencies are projected to increase by $555,000, which is the result of an increase in federal housing funding. The Delaware paramedic grant, which is based on 30 percent of the paramedic expenses, increased $234,000.
Revenues from constitutional offices like the Marriage Bureau, Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills and Sheriff’s sales of properties have decreased by $2 million, officials say. However, the Recorder of Deeds and Register of Wills offices are seeing increases in activity resulting in a $322,000 and $35,000 increase, respectively.
General government fees and services, which are mostly real estate and economy sensitive, such as building permits and private road inspections, are up 10 percent. Revenues from the 911 system fee are capped by the state. Airpark rents are down 24 percent, or $136,000, due to renegotiated leases.
Page 2 of 2 - EXPENSES
The general fund budget for expenditures is set at $49.8 million.
In looking at the general fund by functional category, the largest chunk, 32 percent, is going to public safety. General government receives the next largest amount, 21 percent, for County Council, administration, finance, human resources, building code, assessment, dog control and information technology.
In looking at the general fund by expenditure, the largest chunk, 35 percent, goes to salaries. In the coming fiscal year, the county will operate with less staff, as it’s down 4.5 positions from the fiscal 2013 budget.
Among the items highlighted in the budget’s expenditures is a one-time compensation and holiday bank payout for $498,000. The budget also has an increase of $389,000 in Community Development, primarily due to an increase in federal housing funds, which ups the amount that can be spent on housing rehabilitation.
A first-time expense of $126,000 to operate Woodland Park is also included in the budget, along with $274,000 to begin replacing the county’s aging paramedic and general operating fleet, as well as a 7 percent, or $75,000, increase in insurance rates.