Sussex council OKs $119 million budget for fiscal year 2017

GEORGETOWN — Sussex County Council, following a public hearing Tuesday, unanimously approved the proposed $119 million budget for the 2017 fiscal year that begins July 1.

The approval keeps the county’s property tax rate at 44.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, with no increase in fees, including for sewer service. The average County tax bill for a single-family home will remain around $110 annually, not including independent school district taxes.

The budget is supported by a mix of income streams, including property taxes, realty transfer taxes, sewer service fees, building permit fees and document recording fees. That revenue, in turn, pays for paramedics and 911 dispatchers, public wastewater, building inspection and libraries.

By law, Sussex County must adopt a balanced budget by June 30 each year.

“This budget continues the county’s track record of providing essential services at an affordable price,” County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “Our focus each year is to put together a plan that balances customers’ needs with the fiscal realities in the year ahead.”

For FY2017, the general fund portion of the budget is up 2.8 percent, which is below the 3 percent growth rate in the county’s taxable assessments. However, the overall plan is down $3.8 million, or 3.1 percent, from the current year’s $122.8 million in County expenses, largely due to some reduced sewer construction in the year ahead.

Among some of the major highlights in the adopted budget, the fiscal plan includes the completion of a multi-year effort to phase in a unified, one-time sewer connection fee for new public wastewater users. Meantime, quarterly sewer service charges for existing and new customers — the county currently serves nearly 61,000 customers — will remain the same as they are in the current fiscal year, the first time rates have remain unchanged in seven years.

Additionally, local volunteer fire and ambulance companies will see a boost in county funding in the next year, with the budget earmarking $3.5 million — a $100,000 increase. The county will add two new paramedics, as well as two new dispatchers, to meet growing call demand.

County Council President Michael H. Vincent said the adopted budget continues to reflect the county’s conservative fiscal management, while providing the critical services, particularly public safety, residents and visitors deserve and expect.

“We are proud to serve the people of this great county, and to do it in a way that provides outstanding service without digging deep into the taxpayers’ pockets,” President Vincent said. “That should be the goal of any business or government, to meet customers’ needs and keep them satisfied. Without happy customers, you don’t have much of a business. I believe our budget this year will keep our customers very happy.”

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