County council discusses state budget, reassessment

Sussex County officials are looking ahead at the possibility of a statewide property reassessment and potential impacts at the county government level as state officials work to prepare a 2018-fiscal-year budget that they hope will address a $350 million state budget shortfall coming in to Gov. John Carney’s term.

With that in mind, Sussex County Town Administrator Todd Lawson on March 7 offered county council members an update from the State/County Finance & Revenue Committee.

Lawson said representatives from all three Delaware counties had met with Gov. John Carney last month to discuss the State’s proposed budget, which is expected to be released March 23.

“He was not able to offer too much information just yet, but he has publically made comments … which relate to the fact that the budget woes the State is facing are not something he feels compelled to push on to municipalities, including the counties.”

Lawson said that a statewide property reassessment has been discussed by the committee.

“I bring reassessment up because it is certainly a conversation within the broader scope of the budget conversation,” said Lawson. “I don’t know if the governor is going to request or try to have a statewide reassessment, but it is certainly being discussed.

“As anyone knows, when talking about reassessment, there is a cost involved. We estimate that is going to be about $9 million for Sussex County and would take several years to reassess the properties and also hear the appeals of the initial reassessment.”

Lawson also noted that other items being discussed in the upcoming State budget include potentially cutting both library funding and paramedic funding. Currently, the State reimburses the County for 30 percent of the cost of paramedic services. Changing the senior tax credit is also being discussed.

Councilman Rob Arlett asked whether, if there were to be a state-wide reassessment, the State would help pay the cost.

“Yes, that is being discussed,” said Lawson. “Each county is dealing with a different set of issues. … The governor is looking at all options. … He’s asking for assistance, ideas to assist the State, from the County.”

Councilman George Cole asked if there would be a scenario in which properties could be reassessed during a sale transaction and also asked about a possible homesteaders’ exemption.

“I’d love for us to be a little proactive and not wait until the last minute,” he said.