Sussex County Approves $294.1-M Budget & Preserves Another 150 Acres of Land
Sussex County is ready to begin the new fiscal year on July 1st now that the County Council has approved the $294.1-million FY 23 Budget. The budget includes NO increase in the County tax portion of the bill. County Finance Director Gina Jennings tells the Council that $32.4-million in reserves are being used in the General Fund and Capital Budgets. There are some changes in fees – library fines, Planning & Zoning charges, the EMS special event fee and the bulk water rate. Much of the spending is for public safety – improvements to the EOC, an additional DSP Trooper through an MOU with the State, public safety support staff and more. Jennings adds that the increased costs in employment costs, repairs and maintenance contracts, the reassessment project, insurance and utilities are where the County is spending for daily operations.
The Council voted 4 to 1 to approve the FY 23 Budget – with Councilwoman Cindy Green voting against. She had concerns over the fees that will be charged by Planning & Zoning which she feels will bring a decrease in construction. She also felt more discussion was needed in how the $45.5-million in American Rescue Plan Act funding was allocated.
The Council also approved the assessment rolls for sewer and water districts, establishing the annual service charges, assessment rates for the water and sewer districts and the establishment of fees in the annual budget.
The Sussex County Council received an update the County’s Land Preservation, which since FY 2003, has preserved over 5200 acres of land – at a cost of nearly $13.5-million. That includes years of farmland preservation as well. Since 2020, the County has acquired 4 properties – totaling 104 acres – throughout Sussex County. This week County Administrator Todd Lawson announced the acquisition of several more parcels.
These four properties include the Dorman Farm Tract #2 – 13 acres on Route 24 and Herring Creek in Angola, the Dawson Brothers Tract – 40 acres on Route 24 and Gull Point Road near Oak Orchard, the Jones Family Tract – 47 acres on Conaway Road west of Millsboro and the Hopkins Preserve – 51 acres on Sweetbriar Road along the Lewes to Georgetown Trail west of Lewes.
Lawson says they have used County funding as well as partnering with various organizations to make the funding go farther – including the Sussex County Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, Chesapeake Conservancy, the Farmland Preservation program and the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.
During the hearings and public meetings during the recent Comprehensive Land Use Plan – which endorses preservation, Lawson says the public has also been asking for this as well – looking for ways to expand and improve the open space system in the County.