Sussex County adopts $117.7 million budget for Fiscal 2014

Georgetown, Del., June 18, 2013: There are few certainties in life, as Benjamin Franklin once noted. When it comes to taxes, some things never change in Sussex County.

Sussex County Council, following a public hearing Tuesday, June 18, 2013, unanimously approved the proposed $117.7 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year that begins July 1, and just as previous budgets have done, the new plan will keep the County’s property tax rate the same as it has been since 1990.

A recovering housing market, leading to a projected uptick in local realty transfer tax revenue, is helping to strengthen the budget, which means good news for taxpayers. This year marks the 24th year in a row the County’s property tax rate has remained at 44.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The average County tax bill for a single-family home remains around $100 annually, not including independent school district taxes.

The good news isn’t limited to just taxpayers. The majority of the County’s 57,000 public wastewater customers have reason to cheer, as well. While rates from other providers are on the rise, many County sewer customers’ rates will decrease, depending on the district, thanks to a recent refinancing and the retirement of long-term debt.

“This budget continues Sussex County’s long tradition of prudent, measured spending while ensuring essential public services remain the best value around,” County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “Sussex County is tremendously proud of the fact that, unlike many others, we can continue to run efficiently and effectively with a tax rate set a generation ago. It’s a tremendous feat.”

While the overall budget is down from the 2013 plan, the general fund portion of the budget is expected to rise by 8 percent, or $3.7 million. That is due in part to an expected surplus later this year, as well as an expected increase in revenues from realty transfer taxes, building permit and zoning fees, and Recorder of Deeds fees -- all tied to an improving local housing market. The general fund portion of the budget pays for day-to-day operations and services offered by County government.

The new budget maintains grant funding for local service providers, including volunteer fire companies, municipal police departments, local libraries and non-profit community groups, while increasing funding for the County’s housing rehabilitation program to assist lower-income households.

On the operations side, the proposed budget includes a one-time bonus for the County’s nearly 500 employees. The budget also includes an enhancement to the employee benefits program to change the current dental and vision programs from a reimbursement plan to an insurance plan.

County Council President Michael H. Vincent said the new budget carries on the County’s tried-and-true principles of limited government and conservative spending. “If there is anything the public appreciates, it is consistency, especially when it comes to their government and how their money is being spent,” President Vincent said. “For nearly a quarter century, the people of Sussex County have been able to count on taxes remaining the same, and trust that their dollars are being used wisely to provide them with the services they need.

“They can rest assured that will be the case for yet another year,” Mr. Vincent said.

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Copies of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, as well as the original news release issued May 21, 2013, are posted on the county’s website at www.sussexcountyde.gov.