Proposed Sussex County FY 2021 Budget Includes No Tax or Sewer Increases

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The Sussex County Council saw the proposed FY 21 budget this morning – a bare bones budget thanks to the impacts of coronavirus. The County’s proposed budget is $157.8-million – a decrease of $27.9-million or 15% from the current budget – and includes no increases in property taxes or sewer service rates. It does include a $15 increase in water service for the Dewey Water District customers, which Finance Director Gina Jennings says is “a direct reflection of increases that the district is being charged.”

Image courtesy Sussex County government

Sussex County government will trim departmental spending, forgo major capital projects, and cap its grants programs, but keep all services intact and positions funded. The proposed $157.8 million budget for Fiscal Year 2021 to fund various local services, such as 911 dispatch, paramedics, and wastewater, as well as already planned projects, including a consolidated public safety complex. The spending plan, though, calls for no new programs or projects, with no increases in taxes or general fund fees, despite projected income dips, particularly among real estate-related revenues.

Among the highlights in the proposed FY2021 budget, the proposal includes:

  • $1 million to cover engineering costs of a planned consolidated public safety complex that would expand the Emergency Operations Center to accommodate the County’s Emergency Medical Services’ administrative offices and training facilities;
  • Maintained funding, at $3.4 million, for the County’s contract with the State of Delaware for the 22 supplemental state police troopers assigned to Sussex County;
  • A $750,000 allocation to continue efforts to expand broadband Internet in rural areas;
  • $1.7 million to preserve open space and farmland that could otherwise be developed;
  • Funding for 12 positions to meet demand in the EMS, EOC, and Engineering departments, with the bulk of those, eight, going to EOC as the center absorbed functions of the Seaford 911 facility in 2019 and shifts to a call-taker/dispatch model later this year;
  • No change in current property tax rates or sewer service charges, and only a minor increase, $15 annually, in service charges for water customers.

County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed FY 21 budget during its 10am meeting on Tuesday, June 23. At this time, due to the public health crisis and in compliance with Gov. John C. Carney’s emergency declaration, the hearing may be limited to a virtual session with public comment submitted via telephone or in advance by emailing budget@sussexcountyde.gov. The public should consult the Council’s June 23 agenda, when posted, for further guidance.

By law, Council must adopt a budget by June 30. To view a copy of the proposed budget, including the accompanying presentation, visit www.sussexcountyde.gov/county-budget.