Sussex County Council Approves FY 21 Budget & Plans to Begin Reopening of County Offices

Image courtesy Sussex County Government

The Sussex County Council held a public hearing this morning on the County’s proposed $157.8-million FY21 budget and public hearings to set the water and sewer assessment rolls and to establish the annual service charges, assessment rates and connection charges for the county’s water and sewer districts. There was no comment made on the two water and sewer ordinances, and just one comment from county watchdog, Dan Kramer of Greenwood on the budget, commenting that there was no where in the budget that mentions COLA and raises for county staff.

County Finance Director Gina Jennings briefly discussed the budget – which is $27.9-million less than the FY20 budget. The county departments trimmed their spending, new major capital projects were canceled and grant programs were capped. The County was able to hold taxes steady and keep services intact. The Council approved all three ordinances with unanimous votes.

Read more about the budgetClick here to look at the budget

Next week, the County Government will begin to reopen as limited public access will be allowed to the facilities and meetings. While the County offices have been closed – employees have stayed on the job, either working from home or in the office. However as the public begins to return they will notice many changes to the administrative offices in an effort to keep everyone safe. Next Tuesday the County Council will return to their chambers. Seating will be limited, there will also be public hearings in the afternoon session – with seating designated by signage that follows social distancing rules. Face masks will also be mandatory in the building along with the usual security check – and a health screening. Not all departments will be open, however some walk-in service will be available. Some departments will be available by appointment only – with meetings taking place by phone, virtually or in person. Click here for more on the Sussex County Reopening

Sussex County Manger of Accounting, Andrea Wall told the Council that they have received a check for $38,898 from the US Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. This is a federal payment, in lieu of taxes for Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The check is funded through revenues generated from the Refuge and from a supplemental congressional appropriation. No property taxes are collected by the County from the Federal Government for Prime Hook. The funding will be allocated to the Milford and Cape Henlopen School Districts, Sussex Tech, the County Libraries and Sussex County. Just over 23% of the Refuge land assessed value in Sussex County is within the Milford School District and just under 77% is within the Cape School District. The check was deposited into the County’s General Fund in May.

Director of Utility Planning, John Ashman, went before the Council to request permission to prepare and post notices for a public hearing on the annexation of the Cherry Walk/Hollywood area as part of the expansion of the county Unified Sanitary Sewer District – Angola Neck Area. This area is off Camp Arrowhead Road. Ashman says that after three polling letters requesting response from residents, 14 have been in favor, 11 not at this time and 6 did not respond. The council approved the request with a 5 to 0 vote.