Georgetown, Del., May 24, 2022: Sussex County is keeping its financial boat balanced and afloat, even in spite of record-level national inflation and uncertain economic waters ahead.
Sussex County officials on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, unveiled the proposed $294.1 million budget for Fiscal Year 2023 to fund a variety of local services, including 911 dispatchers, paramedics, and local libraries, as well as various projects to expand sewer service and improve public safety. The yearly plan is the second in a row for the County that nears $300 million, once again fueled by, in large part, funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The overall proposed budget is up by more than $16 million over the annual budget proposed this time a year ago, but down slightly, approximately $1.6 million, when adjusted for amended expenses. Increased operational costs, continued economic uncertainty, and more demand for public services are among the many factors driving this year’s proposal.
“The cost of everything is going up, and that’s reflected in our budget in the form of higher expenses for fuel, insurance, materials, labor costs, and so on,” said County Administrator Todd F. Lawson, who presented to County Council the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. “On its surface, a $300 million budget looks exceptional, but it’s a mirror of these exceptional economic times. We believe this proposal is prudent in keeping pace with the financial realities of the day, while maintaining the high level of service our customers demand and deserve.”
Among the highlights in the proposed FY2023 budget, the proposal includes:
- $72.2 million for wastewater infrastructure, including new sewer mains, increased treatment capacity, and other upgrades to the County’s utility systems;
- $7.4 million to preserve open space and farmland that could otherwise be developed;
- $7.3 million to pay for the final phase of construction of a consolidated public safety complex that will expand the Emergency Operations Center to accommodate the County’s Emergency Medical Services’ administrative offices and training facilities;
- Increased funding, from $3.6 million to $3.8 million, for the County’s contract with the State of Delaware for the 22 supplemental state police troopers – and the possibility of an additional officer – assigned to Sussex County;
- $3.4 million in funding to pay for the continuing court-ordered countywide reassessment of all properties;
- $1.5 million for the construction of a new paramedic station in the Millsboro area;
- Nearly $800,000 more, from $2 million to $2.8 million, for local volunteer fire companies with ambulance service to cover salaries for paid EMTs;
- Funding for 16 new positions to meet demand in the County’s Community Development & Housing, EMS, Engineering, EOC, Human Resources, Marriage Bureau and Records Management offices, with the bulk of those for additional paramedics and 9-1-1 dispatchers;
- No change in current property tax rates, though a number of fee increases, including $24 annually for sewer and $35 annually for water for public utility customers, as well as new or adjusted fees for a variety of land use services (change of zone, commercial site plan review, subdivision, and variance requests, etc.).
County Finance Director Gina A. Jennings said this year’s plan was developed once again with a cloud-based software management reporting tool that shows more detail, including charts, tables, and narratives, all of which provide a greater understanding of the County’s finances and heightened transparency of the budgeting process.
Council President Michael H. Vincent praised the budget team, including Mr. Lawson, Ms. Jennings, and Deputy Finance Director Kathy L. Roth, for crafting a solid plan as inflation and other economic factors loom. “Anyone who runs a business or pays household bills knows just how demanding budgeting can be. And that’s without the unprecedented prices and supply chain shortages we’re seeing in this economy,” President Vincent said. “Government is no exception. Thankfully, our budget team has been able to navigate those forces and present a plan that, hopefully, our taxpayers will appreciate, as it maintains the same great product in the services we deliver while keeping costs in check.”
County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal during its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in council chambers at the County Administrative Offices building, 2 The Circle, in Georgetown. The public can comment in person or via teleconference on that date, or submit comments through the web at email@example.com. By law, Council must adopt a budget by June 30.
To view a copy of the proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget, as well as the accompanying budget presentation, visit sussexcountyde.gov/county-budget.