In a special meeting on Monday, June 28, the Dagsboro Town Council reviewed the proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year as it was presented to town council members by Town Administrator Cynthia Brought.
The council members reviewed the 10-page budget document before and during the meeting, with only a few comments pertaining the numbers proposed.
Brought was first to comment, speaking about her office’s “biggest struggle” in formulating the budget.
“I just wanted to point out, my biggest struggle probably was the water department,” Brought said. “Trying to get the figures to work right as far as the revenue, and that’s pretty much because of the registers not working and not being able to bill properly. I believe that if we have the new registers, and get on a regular monthly basis and collecting delinquencies that type of thing, then we can definitely end up with a surplus. This year has been horrible. It ended up $20,000 to the bad, but then we had added back in our $50,000 that we had added from impact fees.
“I know the user fees, charging the right rates, charging the right amounts — we should be fine. But, like I said, the sooner we can get those registers, and get them in, the better. Sussex County Council had us apply for grant money, but we don’t know how much is available, whether they are granting us any money and how much toward the registers. So that will be helpful as well.”
One of the biggest points of contention with the budget was the numbers for the water department, which Brought had mentioned at the opening of the meeting.
“So the water budget problem is due to the water increase problems with Millsboro, right?” Councilman Norwood Truitt asked Brought.
“Yes, well, that and basically because the registers don’t work,” Brought responded. “We are not getting accurate readings, and we are not getting bills out for months. It delays everything, with these registers not reading. Once we get the new registers, it is going to make a huge difference.
“Now, we do have an issue with delinquencies right now — people aren’t paying. We can’t shut their water off, and they know it. So, as soon as we can, we’re going to be moving on all that to get these people to start paying.”
Brought added that the cost to the Town — without any help from the County via grant — would be roughly $40,000. She said she was not aware as of the meeting whether the grant — which Brought had put in for on behalf of the Town — would be approved, and certainly did not know how much could potentially be approved.
“We asked for $30,000,” Brought noted, “because we said $40,000, but I think some of that included commercial, which they have to buy their own. We asked the County for $30,000, but I have no idea what would be approved, because it will depend on who has what left. I don’t know that they have the $30,000, but they haven’t said one way or the other.”
Councilman William Chandler responded, “This isn’t on our agenda, but I’ll just say that we at some point will need to cross the bridge on this, and make a decision about whether to go ahead and commit, and I, for one, am in favor of it. Commit some of the Town’s resources that we’ve got in CDs to purchasing all of the registers … use whatever we can from the County as a grant, but go in and get them, because it seems to me like we’re making our people deal with a problem that is just an interminable problem, and it’s hurting our revenues in the water. And so, the sooner we get this problem solved — I think everyone agrees — would be better for the Town. I think that’s a bullet we should just go ahead and bite, and, in my opinion, soon.”
With all the discussion about the water register issue, and with Chandler’s suggestion, the council added an item to its agenda about ordering and purchasing the much-needed registers for the water department from the water impact fees. Town officials unanimously approved the motion to “get the ball rolling in getting the registers ordered and purchased.”
There is no official word as to how long it could take for the new registers to arrive, or how soon they could be put in at this point.