Sussex eyes law enforcement, library funding in $186 million budget

GEORGETOWN — Sussex County said it will provide more financial backup for law enforcement, lend added support to local libraries, and continue planning for expanded and improved wastewater service, among other initiatives, as the 2020 budget year comes into focus.

County officials Tuesday unveiled the proposed $185.8 million budget for Fiscal Year 2020 to fund various local services and future projects.

The county said the proposed budget keeps property taxes unchanged for another year, but does utilize increased revenue and cash reserves. The plan once again reflects the need for significant investment in the years ahead to keep pace with demand for services and infrastructure, including police, paramedics, wastewater, and libraries, as well as continued efforts to expand broadband Internet service to more rural parts of the county, a high priority for Sussex officials, the county said.

“This budget is all about the future — planning for our future needs, whether it’s public safety, wastewater improvements, or the County government’s general operations,” said County Administrator Todd F. Lawson, who presented to County Council the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“This budget lays the foundation for the next several years.”

Among some of the major highlights in the proposed budget, the plan includes:

• $1 million to cover design costs of a new public safety complex that would see the Emergency Operations Center expanded to make room for the County’s Emergency Medical Services’ administrative offices and training facilities;

• Increased funding for the County’s contract with the State of Delaware for the 22 supplemental state police troopers to be assigned to Sussex County, up about $200,000 from $3.1 million in FY2019 to $3.3 million next year;

• Additional funding, $100,000 above FY2019, to fund local law enforcement operations;

• A $2 million allocation to further the County’s efforts to expand broadband Internet to residents and businesses in hard-to-reach rural parts of the county;

• Increased grant funding to local libraries and senior programs, specifically $20,000 to each of the county’s 11 independent libraries, and $50,000 to CHEER Inc. (one of four installments totaling $200,000) for the expansion of its kitchen to provide senior meals;

• $1 million to preserve open space and farmland that could otherwise be developed;

• Nearly $35 million in capital funding to pay for various sewer improvements and expansion projects to fulfill the County’s 20-year forecasted demand, including $8 million to expand the spray irrigation disposal system at the Inland Bays Regional Wastewater Facility, and almost $7 million to expand and upgrade the South Coastal Regional Wastewater facility, projects that will allow for additional capacity on the County’s sewer system;

• Approximately $3.4 million to continue development of roads and other infrastructure in the County’s Delaware Coastal Business Park, which the County is actively marketing to draw tenants and grow the county’s economy;

• Continued funding of $250,000 annually for the County’s community development emergency housing fund, to help low-income residents with urgent repairs;

• Funding for eight new positions to meet increased demand in the Billing, Emergency Operations, Engineering, Environmental Services, and Libraries offices;

• No change in current property tax rates or sewer service charges, and only minor changes in fees for accessing and storing documents in the Register of Wills office, and for private road plan review and inspections through the Public Works division.

County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal during its 10 a.m. meeting on June 18, in council chambers at the County Administrative Offices building, 2 The Circle, in Georgetown. The public can comment in person on that date, or submit comments through the web at budget@sussexcountyde.gov. By law, Council must adopt a budget by June 30.

A copy of the proposed budget and accompanying budget presentation in online at sussexcountyde.gov/county-budget.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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