Dover council OKs first reading for tax hike proposal

DOVER — City council members agreed on the first reading ordinances to enact a 19.9 percent property tax increase during Monday night’s meeting.

The final adoption will be read June 22.

For property owners, that works out to an additional 6.72 cents per $100 assessment.

For the average homeowner, the proposed increase in most neighborhoods is less than $1 a day, Mr. Koenig said, and in some cases it’s significantly less than that.

The increase is driven by a recent assessment that the evaluation of property across the city is down.

“None of us love the spectra of raising taxes,” Council President Timothy Slavin said. “Everyone felt the economy at this point would have rebounded a little bit stronger. We all hoped for that.

“The economy is coming back, but it’s lagging for some of the traditional revenue streams that we have.”

Council whittled the original proposed 24.3 percent increase down to 19.9 percent during its budget review hearings last week.

Originally the proposed increase called for a 8 cents per $100 tax increase, but after council made some cuts through a series of ordinances during the review hearings, the increase was held at 6 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The property tax rate will go from 33.78 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value to 39.79 cents.

“When we began budget deliberations, the total annual budget for the city of Dover was roughly over a little of 137 million dollars,” city manager Scott Koenig said. “41.8 million of that is related to the general fund proposed spending across the city of Dover, as the general fund is primarily supported by the property tax rate.

“After the budget discussion and changes, the budget will really be 41.3 million dollars of spending.

“Some of the major driving factors in this budget is how we address resident concerns regarding public safety, infrastructure both from the street and power infrastructure,” Mr. Koenig added. “There are many dollars associated with various components of the budget that address those items.”

Based on an estimate of $1.5 million needed to pay for officers’ salaries, equipment and other costs, the addition is expected to cost the city an extra $4 million over the next five fiscal years.

Nine cadets will be added as well.

Council agreed that more funding to public service was needed for the city.

City residents also would pay more for electricity under the proposed budget since it calls for an average rate increase of 3 percent.

“There is a roughly 3 percent increase in electricity,” Mr. Koenig said. “It does vary by classification. In some classifications it’s as low as 2.4 percent and some are as high as 3 or 3.4 percent, depending on which classification you’re at.”

There are no water and sewer increases for the proposed budget.

Councilman William Hare had mixed feelings about the tax increase.

“The tax increase, we were going to have it,” Councilman Hare said. “But I don’t agree with it. I don’t think we did everything we could. I don’t agree that raising taxes is the easiest way of raising revenue for the city. I’ve noticed that we’ve taken the easy way instead of working.

“The police I think we need that, with Wilmington being a high crime area that it is. Since Wilmington is cracking down, those people aren’t going to Philadelphia. You can see by the last three months that they’re coming to Dover.

“We need more police officers. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about the cadet program already,” Councilman Hare added.

“I just think we need to do a better job of managing our budget.”

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