The Sussex County Council unanimously approved its 2019-fiscal-year budget following a public hearing on July 19. The $177.5 million budget will begin on July 1.
Broken down, the budget is made up of $74,142,260 in the General Fund; $16,622,500 for Capital Projects–General Funds; $38,692,624 in the Water & Sewer Fund; $40,655,000 in Capital Projects–Water & Sewer; and $6,876,000 in Pension — for a total of $176,988,402.
The general fund budget is up by $5.4 million, with a $900,000 increase in paramedic and emergency preparedness, and a $900,000 increase in pension contribution. The proposed budget includes $3.6 million in grant-in-aid, including the $1.5 million loan for the Sussex Sports Complex, and a $1 million increase for land preservation.
“There’s also a $75,000 increase for the emergency home repairs conducted through our Community Development program,” said County Finance Director Gina Jennings.
For public safety, $16.2 million is budgeted for paramedics, $4.3 million for fire and ambulance services, and $3.6 million for the Sussex County 911 Center. Another $3.1 million is budgeted for the County to have an additional 22 Delaware State Police troopers.
For grant-in-aid, there was a $900,000 increase to public safety agencies — $500,000 increase for ambulance service, $200,000 though building permits and $200,000 for Delaware State Police.
“I think the $500,000 we’re putting toward the ambulance, the majority of it is going to tourists,” said Councilman Sam Wilson. “If it wasn’t for the tourists, we wouldn’t have all this expense.”
While property taxes will not increase, water and sewer fees increase approximately $6 each annually. There is a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment in the budget, and employees also receive merit increases based on their performance.
The proposed budget also increases $14.3 million in reserves for one-time expenses.
The budget also included a change in fees for those who use the services of the Recorder of Deeds. Prior to the new budget, for non-subscribers it cost $1 per page downloaded, while subscribers paid $50 per month for a discounted download cost of 25 cents.
With the new budget in place, non-subscribers will be charged $1 per document downloaded, and subscribers will pay $50 per month for unlimited downloads. Larger firms that would want to have up to 10 subscriptions would pay $300 per month.
“Is there any reason we’re doing this while the Recorder of Deeds is making a profit?” asked Bridgeville resident Dan Kramer. “Why am I going to be charged if I want to go down there and get a copy of something?”
“Currently you can search the entire property records in the office for free — that won’t change,” said Recorder of Deeds Scott Dailey, noting the office’s digitized system now goes back to about 1952. “This makes it very usable online and affordable for people who may just want one document… It’ll reduce the fees and increase the accessibility to the general public.”
To view a copy of the 2019 budget, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/county-budget.
By Maria Counts