County earns 10th consecutive auditing, budgeting award


Sussex County has earned a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 10th consecutive year for its auditing and budgeting practices.

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, based in Chicago, awarded the County its certificate for the 2011 comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). The award is among the highest forms of recognition for governmental accounting and financial reporting.

County Finance Director Susan M. Webb thanked a “very talented group of accountants and county employees,” including Gina Jennings, Kathy Roth, Jeff James, Keith Moore and Louise Thompson. County Council President Michael Vincent thanked the department, saying he appreciated their hard work very much.

County officials said the CAFR was judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the association’s program. The award is an acknowledgment of Sussex County’s comprehensive annual financial report, or CAFR. The document includes the county’s annual audit, showing assets, liabilities, equity, revenues and expenses. It also contains information about county demographics and the local economy. That information helps those reviewing the report — such as investors — to better gauge the County’s financial condition.

“For a decade now, Sussex County government has achieved the prestigious Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting award. This is an example of Sussex County’s commitment and dedication to the highest standards of financial management,” said Webb. “We are proud to earn this honor once again.”

Also this week, Sussex County Council heard from Brad Whaley, the County’s director of community development and housing, about their housing rehab program.

Whaley said they received about $1,113,000 last year, including $833,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, $200,000 in HOME funding, $60,000 in County Council funding and $20,000 in Housing Preservation (HPG) funding.

The specific areas throughout Sussex County targeted by this funding included the Town of Delmar, Town of Ellendale, Town of Laurel, Town of Seaford and Town of Milford, rural Ellendale, Lincoln/GreenTop and rural Dagsboro/Millsboro. They also receive funding for scattered-sites rehabilitation and water/sewer hook ups.

Of the households assisted, 93 were elderly home owners, 71 were disabled and 115 were below 50 percent of the area’s median income, or $24,000 per year. About 50 percent of those assisted were minorities, said Whaley. With County funds in particular, they were able to assists 12 households, including nine elderly and five disabled and about 40 percent minorities. All 12 of those households had incomes below $24,000 per year.

County funds also helped remodel and update the bathrooms at the Coverdale Community Center and replaced the roof on the back of the center.

Whaley and Mike Jones, project manager, shared a presentation with the council, showing families around the county who had received assistance — featuring a ramp and handicapped-accessible shower for an elderly woman, for example, and assistance to a single mother with excessively high heating bills because of insufficient insulation.

When asked by council about how recipients are prioritized, they explained that it was a “first-come, first-served” program and noted that they continue to have a list of about 1,100 people waiting for assistance. Whaley said they are also starting to see an increase in leaking roofs, possibly due to storm damage from the winter of 2010, and have replaced or installed wells for people, too.

When possible, he said, they direct people to their 3-percent loan program.

Councilman George Cole asked if they had ever rejected a project and Whaley said they have.

“If we can’t rehab it for under $25,000, we can, and we have,” explained Whaley. He also said that, because of the “clean hands” policy the County has regarding services to taxpayers who are in arrears, they sometimes work with people until their back taxes are paid, and that might make their wait on the list longer.

“What about manufactured homes?” Cole asked. “How do you determine if a 30-year-old manufactured home is worth rehabbing?”

Whaley said they can do mobile home replacements if the newer ones are less than 20 years old but he said it can be a complicated process. “It’s easier if they own the land,” he explained.

Cole then asked if there was something they could look at, as a whole for the program, pointing out that the waiting list has always had about 1,000 names on it since he started as a councilman more than 20 years ago.

“Be careful about how magnanimous we are being,” said Councilman Vance Phillips. “If we start channeling more and more and throwing more taxpayers’ money toward it … that could backfire. Personal responsibility has always been a big part of this county.”

“Nobody’s throwing anything toward it,” retorted Cole. “I am just asking: Are we doing enough?” he emphasized, referencing possibly using surplus revenue for projects that could benefit the county as a whole and the fact that the number of people needing help has stayed constant.

“Well, somebody once said, ‘There will be poor always,’” countered Phillips.

Cole then went on to say that the tax rebate that county taxpayers got this year, of $3 or $4 each, had “very little impact.”

“I got 8 [dollars]” joked Councilwoman Joan Deaver.

“This program could do that,” finished Cole, surmising it could have a more positive countywide effect than the modest tax rebates.

Whaley said July 1 was the start of the program’s new year and they have received $797,790 in CDBG funding and $200,000 in HOME funding, and are awaiting confirmation on applied HPG funding. In addition, the County Council allotted $70,000 for housing rehabilitation, for which Whaley thanked them. He said they plan on assisting residents in Selbyville, Georgetown, Bridgeville, Milton, and the Cool Springs, Mount Joy and Coverdale areas, as well as scattered sites for rehabilitation and water/sewer hookups.

He also said that HUD Section 3 requires them to track the income of those performing the work, and 70 percent of the work completed was completed by contractors in the moderate income range.

For information on the program, visit http://sussexcountyde.gov/dept/communitydev online.

In other news from the Aug. 14 council meeting:

• Updates on the Nanticoke River dredging project can be found online at www.sussexcountyde.gov. Information includes documents from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the County and other sources and will constantly be updated. People can also contact the County or sign up for the mailing list to be kept abreast of the progress.

• Grants were made to Old Tymer’s Softball League, Sussex Tri-Community Coalition, the Town of Ellendale, Delaware Lady Blue Hens softball and Ellendale Volunteer Fire Company.

• The full council packet is now available online at sussexcountyde.gov. From the home page, click on “online services,” then click on “agendas and minutes.” Click Aug. 14 and then click on “packet” to see the council meeting packet from this week’s meeting.