Sussex County reveals proposed $119 million budget


This week, Sussex County revealed its proposed $119 million budget for the 2017 fiscal year.

In the proposed budget, County staff recommended no change in property taxes or general fund fees. Sewer and water service charges would not increase either, if the budget is approved.

“Thanks to the County’s leadership and this team’s conservative approach, the County will continue without raising taxes for another year,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson.

A total budget increase of 2.8 percent, or $1.5 million, is proposed for the general fund, with taxable assessments to be increased by 3 percent and building-related revenues increasing by $591,000. However, the overall proposed budget is down $3.8 million, or 31 percent, from the current year’s $122.8 million in County expenses.

Although the County projects collecting $23.3 million in realty transfer taxes in the 2016 fiscal year, continuing an upward trend, the County plans to budget for just $19 million in transfer tax revenue. Any transfer tax collected over the $19 million will be transferred to the Capital Projects Fund.

“We continue to take a conservative approach,” said Lawson.

There will be an increase in grants to local volunteer fire and ambulance companies of $100,000, bringing the total amount distributed to those public-safety entities to $3.5 million. Other elements of the proposed budget include:

• Funding two additional paramedics, as well as two additional 911 dispatchers;

• Grants to local police departments, libraries and community groups are either maintained at current levels or, in some cases, increased;

• More than $11 million in capital projects, including funding for two new paramedic stations and a new emergency operations mobile command unit, as well as for continued implementation of a new computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) system to improve assessment data collection and online availability;

• A 1 percent cost of living adjustment for County employees, with a .5 percent COLA for pensioners;

• No increase in health insurance premiums or coverage changes for County employees;

• Building-related revenues, through increased permit and inspection activity, are expected to generate an additional $591,000 in funding in the coming year;

• Realty transfer taxes will continue to be the County’s largest source of income, with $19 million budgeted in 2017, though the final collected amount — as it has in 2016 — could run higher.

Public safety entities receive the most grant monies, with a proposed $6,282,275 going to public safety, followed by libraries, receiving $2,353,000. Public safety receives 57 cents of every dollar the county receives (an increase from last year), with libraries receiving 14 cents of every dollar.

County staff also made reference to a number of accomplishments in the 2016 budget, which included adding the largest amount of assessment improvements ($112 million) since 2007, saving $120,000 in worker’s compensation claims through claim management and reduction of lost workdays by 38 percent.

During the 2016 fiscal year, 12 district annexations took place, a fiber ring network was completed in Georgetown, and the County obtained a 96 percent matching rate on 911 addressing.

The Sussex County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal during its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday, June 21, 2016, in council chambers at the County Administrative Offices building, 2 The Circle, in Georgetown. The public can comment in person on that date, or submit comments through the Internet at budget@sussexcountyde.gov. By law, the council must adopt a budget by June 30.

A copy of the proposed 2017-fiscal-year budget, as well as the accompanying budget presentation, can be downloaded from the County’s website at www.sussexcountyde.gov/county-budget.