Sussex County Council this week heard a presentation on its audited financial statements for the 2015 fiscal year. Keith Hammond, CPA at BDO USA LLP, a firm of licensed certified public accountants, said the County was given a “clean” opinion and was in compliance with federal programs.
For 2015, Sussex County ended the fiscal year overall with $4,009,295 in revenues above expenditures, giving the County its sixth year in a row with a financial gain. The boost was fueled by an increase of approximately $1.5 million in building-related revenue and an uptick in real estate transfer tax revenues, as well as a sharp drop in capital spending, as several County construction projects were completed during the past year. The County will set aside the added revenue in the County’s capital fund for future projects.
For the General Fund, revenues were down 1 percent, or $560,000. There has also been a decrease in Sheriff’s Office revenue of $621,000 and a decrease in grants received of $1.8 million. Finance Director Gina Jennings said those decreases were offset by increases in building-related revenue. Expenditures increased by $1.7 million, for which the County budgeted.
Overall revenue was up; however, the County’s General Fund portion of the 2015 budget will record a loss of $402,905, as a result of the County transferring $6.2 million for future capital projects.
Real estate transfer tax was the County’s largest revenue source, at 39 percent of the general fund’s revenue. The 3 percent levy on all property sales resulted in $22.2 million in revenue in 2015. Property tax is the second largest revenue stream for the County, at 25 percent, equating to $14.5 million.
Jennings said 86 percent of the realty transfer tax, or $19,023,232, was spent on public safety.
Council President Michael H. Vincent praised the County’s financial team for helping the County earn another year of high marks.
“We’re in this fortunate position again because of sound fiscal management and prudent decisions, and we have Ms. Jennings and our financial team to thank for their diligent work and guidance,” Vincent said. “The county council and the public appreciate very much that the taxpayers’ dollars have been managed appropriately and used wisely for another budget year.”
Sussex County has submitted the 2015-fiscal-year financial report to the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States & Canada for consideration of its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting award. The County has received the award the past 13 years. Jennings said she is optimistic the County will receive the same recognition for the 2015 report.
The complete report and other information will be available on the County’s website at www.sussexcountyde.gov/comprehensive-annual-financial-reports.
In other County news:
• The County’s emergency managers are asking property owners and residents affected by this weekend’s storm to submit information on any damage to homes and businesses so officials can map the reports and gain a clearer sense of what issues the winter nor’easter left in its wake. Only businesses and primary residences are eligible.
Members of the public who experienced any storm-related damage to their properties can report incidents to the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center by calling (302) 856-7366. Damage must be a result of the storm between Jan. 22 and Jan. 24.
• The council granted $250 to the Town of Ocean View for its annual Homecoming event, held in May.
• The council deferred voting on a grant request from Liberty Day Institute, which hopes to teach school children about the Constitution of the United State. Councilman George Cole said he thought the grant should be given on the condition that Kent and New Castle counties also award the organization grant monies. However, Councilman Rob Arlett said the subject is of such importance that he would like to ensure Sussex County students receive that additional education. The council voted to defer voting in order to find out more about the organization.
• The council also deferred voting on a grant request from River Soccer Club, which hopes to rebuild one of its fields. The last grant given to the club was $1,000. It will take an estimated $22,000 to rebuild the field.