Sussex County Adopts $117.7M Budget for Fiscal 2014 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sussex County Adopts $117.7M Budget for Fiscal 2014

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GEORGETOWN, Del.- The Sussex County Council has adopted a budget for the 2014 fiscal year that keeps property taxes the same for the 24th year in a row. 

Following a public hearing held Tuesday in Georgetown, the council unanimously approved the proposed $117.7 million budget for the 2014 FY that begins July 1.

Officials credited a recovering housing market, leading to a projected uptick in local realty transfer taxes revenue, for helping strengthen the budget. As a result, the 2014 budget keeps in place the county's property tax rate of 44.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, making this the 24th consecutive year – nearly a quarter century – without an increase. The average county tax bill for a single-family home remains around $100 annually, not including independent school district taxes.

Officials said the most significant changes constituents will notice in next year's budget will be in the form of sewer rates the county charges for providing public wastewater services to more than 57,400 customers. In most cases, rates will decrease, depending on the district served, officials said.

The rate changes are the result of debt retirement and the 2012 refinancing of more than $60 million in outstanding long-term debt, as well as the continued implementation of uniform service rates for all customers, officials said. The annual charges pay for operations and maintenance, as well as debt service, on the public sewer systems.

While the overall budget is down, officials said 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, officials said.

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. 

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