Sussex County Proposes $128.6M Budget for Fiscal 2016 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sussex County Proposes $128.6M Budget for Fiscal 2016

(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)
GEORGETOWN, Del.- Sussex County leaders on Tuesday unveiled a budget plan for the 2016 fiscal year that holds the line on property taxes and adds funds for new sewer construction.

During Tuesday's meeting, officials unveiled the proposed $128.6 million budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The budget funds county services, including, among others, public safety, libraries, building inspection, wastewater treatment, and community improvements. As in past years, the proposed budget keeps in place the county's property tax rate of 44.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, with the average tax bill for a single-family home remaining around $100 annually, not including local school district taxes.

For FY2016, operational expenses in the general fund portion are up 2.9 percent, which officials said is below the 3.3 percent growth rate in the county's taxable assessments. The overall plan is up $11.3 million, or 9.6 percent, from the current year's $117.3 million budget, largely due to long-planned sewer construction projects included in the county's capital plan, officials noted. 

Officials noted that the most significant changes in next year's budget will be in the form of sewer connection and service fees for residents with county sewer services. Following an effort over the past few years to establish consistent pricing for public wastewater service, the county will continue to phase in a unified, one-time sewer connection fee for new users. Officials said that meantime, quarterly sewer service rates for existing and new customers – the county currently serves 59,420 customers – will increase by $8 in most cases; one district, Long Neck, will increase by $12.57.

Officials said the proposed increase for Fiscal 2016 is mostly the result of expenses for previously planned capital projects, namely public sewer construction, including $9.6 million for new sewer pump stations and $3.2 million in other system improvements. Most of the funds needed to finance those projects, now included in the proposed budget, were collected in previous fiscal years.

Other highlights include:

- Grants to fire companies, local police departments, libraries and community groups are either maintained at current levels or increased in some cases. In the case of volunteer fire and ambulance companies, the county expects to distribute more than $3.4 million next year;

-  The inclusion of $800,000 in funding to continue the county's efforts to digitize records, particularly for assessment and property records;

- Realty transfer taxes will continue to be the county's largest source of income, with $16.7 million budgeted in Fiscal Year 2016, though the final collected amount – as it has been in Fiscal Year 2015 – could run higher.

County leaders say the new budget continues a trend of conservative spending, and added that the county will continue to save by reducing purchases, limiting new hires, and cross-training employees.

County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal during its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in council chambers at the County Administrative Offices building, 2 The Circle, in Georgetown. The public can comment in person on that date, or submit comments through the web at By law, council must adopt a budget by June 30.

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