Dover OKs budget: No property tax increases, no utility rate hikes

DOVER — No champagne bottles were uncorked and no wild celebration took place, but it was obvious that Dover City Council was pleased when the motion to approve the fiscal year 2017 budget passed at City Hall Monday night.

Council voted 8-1, with Councilman David Anderson the only member to vote against the measure, to pass a budget that will ensure no property tax hikes or fee increases as well as no increases in the cost of utilities for the next year.

“This is the ninth city budget that I’ve been involved in and when I returned to city council three years ago, if you had told me that we would be presenting a budget in 2016 that had no tax increase, no fees increased and no utilities increased, then I would have said one thing – that we’re all going to have to work very hard to get there,” said City Council President Timothy Slavin. “And we worked very hard to get there.”

Timothy Slavin

Timothy Slavin

City Manager Scott Koenig said the aggregated General Fund budget will be around $46.7 million for FY 2017 and includes nearly $42.2 million of revenue and expenditures, slightly higher than $41.9 million General Fund numbers of a year ago.

The aggregated budget for the Water and Sewer Fund was $16.7 million, which included nearly $15.5 million of revenue and expenditures and the aggregated budget for the Electric Fund was around $92.7 million, including $79.43 million of revenue and expenditures.

Mr. Koenig advised that the total spending plan was estimated to cost around $137,119,300.

“There are 28 page (budget) ordinances in the boiling down of approximately 315 pages of information related to the city’s general fund, the city’s electric fund and the city’s water and sewage fund, as well as a number of ancillary funds that we manage,” Mr. Koenig said.

“It’s important to note that the FY 2017 City of Dover budget contains no property tax increase and contains no fee increases related to the general fund. We are very proud of the document that we endorsed [Monday].”

The fiscal year 2017 budget was a far cry from last year’s, which included a 19.9 percent property tax increase, as well as a 3 percent increase in electricity.

However, it didn’t come without a cost as the city’s Economic Development Office was dissolved. That was the biggest problem that Councilman Anderson had with the budget.

Last month, council voted 8-1 in a budget hearing on a proposal to eliminate the office, which included three full-time positions held by Bill Neaton, Ed Perez and Beverly Jackson, and to defer funds to the Downtown Dover Partnership.

From there, council voted 6-2 to form a new Economic Development Advisory Committee that would be appointed to take its place, which would be chaired by Mayor Robin Christiansen.

Mr. Neaton spoke to council members during the open forum prior to the official meeting on Monday night, giving credit to his co-workers on the Economic Development Advisory Committee.

“I am truly grateful for the privilege to have worked for the city of Dover over the last eight years. It has been one of the highlights of my professional career,” Mr. Neaton said. “I think that we have accomplished a number of good things. We have created relationships throughout the state that were not created in the past. We had some good successes.

“I’m proud of our accomplishments. Ed (Perez) and Beverly (Jackson) are truly hard working, dedicated and professional people. They have worked this last month with literally a black cloud over their head and they’ve never wavered in their diligence to do their job.”

Overall, Mr. Slavin was pleased with the final budget that was passed.

“I believe that’s the first time Dover has passed a budget in 20 years that could actually decrease taxes,” he said.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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