Commissioners to hammer out final Kent County budget

DOVER — Kent County Levy Court commissioners will meet for their final budget meeting tonight to finalize details of their $31.5 million proposed FY 2020 spending plan.

The budget workshop at the Levy Court Chambers on 555 S. Bay Road in Dover is open to the public and will take place after the regular meeting at 7 p.m.

Discussion concerning the almost 200-page draft budget will be the final of three held in March.

Levy Court Commissioners’ President P. Brooks Banta said the county has been notable for its stability in recent years.

“The changes have not been dramatic,” he said on Monday. “We’re fortunate to have a great director of finance and a great county administrator who work hand-in-hand to make sure all our essential services are properly budgeted.

“Financially, we’re on solid footing. There may come a time in the future when things have to happen differently, but right now we’re somewhat status quo.”

Mr. Banta says it’s been a priority for county administrators to stay ahead of the growing population and ensure that infrastructure capacity is in excess rather than deficit.

“Everything we budget for is crucial, but equipping our paramedic staff and funding our public works is absolutely essential,” he said. “Our wastewater treatment facility near Frederica is a hidden gem.

“Most people aren’t even aware of it, but it’s very important to running this county. We’re all glad to see there’s an increase in home sales, building and businesses relocating to our area, but we have to make sure that we have the ability to sustain the increased amount of activity — that means all infrastructure, sewage included.”

According to the draft budget, the county has an estimated population of 181,864 as of this year, gaining about 10,000 people over the past five years.

As for any revenue increases, Mr. Banta says the prospect hasn’t been discussed.

“We need to be looking at what expenses will be impacted in the future as we grow to determine whether or not we need to do anything with taxes,” he said.

“I don’t think that’s on the table for this year, but I do think people need to understand that over time things need to be maintained.”

The county is financially and operationally responsible for public health and safety, sewage collection and treatment, drainage, planning and zoning, parks and recreation and custodial responsibility for public records.

The sewage collection system services over 100,000 county residents and expansion of the system to accommodate developing areas is continuing, says the county.

The bulk (35 percent) of annual revenue comes from property tax, followed by imposed fees (26 percent of revenue). As far as expenses, the vast majority of the budget is gulped up by the county’s personnel costs, which account for 72 percent of the total budget.

The county has 301 employees with the largest department being public safety with 79.

The spending plan will be available for public review on April 9 during its first hearing. A second public hearing on April 23 will be held ahead of passing the budget resolution.

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