Sussex County Council approves $143M budget for 2018FY

The Sussex County Council this week unanimously approved its proposed $143 million budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

Prior to approving the budget, the council approved a number of ordinances related to the draft budget. Among the changes, the council voted unanimously to implement a $20 recording fee for a marriage license, a fee that New Castle County currently charges.

“We calculated it takes two hours to complete recording a marriage license,” said Finance Director Gina Jennings. “We’re trying to recoup fees…”

Out-of-office marriage ceremony fees would be raised by $25 dollars, with the charge being $100 for residents or $175 for non-residents. Jennings said that was recommended after looking at the cost associated with officials traveling to weddings.
She noted that, had the additional $25 been in place last year, the County would’ve made an additional $29,840.

Councilman Sam Wilson — the only councilperson expressing opposition to the ordinance amendment — suggested the hike in fees would discourage people from getting married.

“I got married for $5. I can’t believe how much it keeps going up.”

The council approved the amendment on a 3-1 vote.

The council unanimously approved the amendment of an ordinance that would limit the property tax credit to only the buyer’s half of the 1.5 percent for first-time homebuyers.

“This is what New Castle County does, and we feel it follows the original intent of the credit that the State put in the Code,” said Jennings on May 16, when the budget was first proposed. “What we are asking is that the buyer still be exempt but the seller pay their .75 percent. So, the County will receive .75 percent on any of the first-time homebuyer credit.”

The council also voted to alter its realty transfer grant to municipalities.

Prior to the amendment’s passage, if a municipality did not collect at least $20,000 in transfer taxes, the County would grant that town or city $15,000, making for potentially up to $34,999 in transfer tax revenue between the grant and actual revenue. Instead, the County will now pay only the difference between $20,000 and what the municipality collected, for a maximum of $20,000 combined for those municipalities collecting less.

Jennings said she had reached out to every town that would be affected by the change and did not receive any questions.

“Our constituents are our customers, and they expect the biggest bang for their buck,” Council President Michael Vincent said. “I am pleased at the work this County is able to accomplish each year, no matter the economy or the budget constraints. And I’m sure the taxpayers appreciate it, too.”