Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson, along with Finance Director Gina Jennings, presented Sussex County Council this week with its proposed $143.8 million budget for the 2018 fiscal year.
That is a figure that can cause one to choke a little bit upon first hearing it, as any monetary figure that ends in “million” is one of significance. But one key figure jumped out to us right off the top.
For every dollar of realty and property tax spend by the County, 55 cents will be spend on public safety. The next closest expenditure is the general operations of the County government — close to 15 cents on the dollar.
There will be an increase of close to $680,000 of spending in the County’s agreement with the Delaware State Police, as that contract will now see Sussex County paying for the full total and real cost of 22 troopers county-wide. If the County balked at the higher figure, Jennings said the result would be five fewer troopers in the county. And, with the State facing major budgetary issues, more of the onus now falls on counties and municipalities to provide their own funding.
On the bright side (in addition to a fully-stocked stable of Delaware state troopers), the County appears to be responding well to a booming growth period in terms of emergency services. According to a review of last year’s budget and financial breakdown, there was a 5-percent increase in the number of EMS service calls last year, but the response time improved by 12 percent, according to officials. In an age of declining state funds, Sussex County is adapting and flourishing.