Millville approves 2018 budget with $230,000 cushion

Selbyville is trying to finish building a drinking-water plant. South Bethany needs to micro-surface its roads. The Indian River School District can’t afford to hire enough teachers.

In Millville, the biggest 2018-fiscal-year budget debates were over fire department funding and guests at the holiday party.

On the former issue, most council members overwhelmingly supported the current structure of donating 6 percent of property tax income (nearly $25,000) to the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.

However, in the wake of alleged embezzlement by the MVFC’s former treasurer, Councilwoman Valerie Faden requested stringent oversight of fire company finances moving forward, including the Town’s impact on the MVFC through two more funding mechanisms: providing a capital grant, via a $500 impact fee on new construction, and helping the MVFC collect $35 discount ambulance service fee on all households.

Public safety isn’t an unworthy cause, Faden said, but she wants to ensure fiscal responsibility. Per the ambulance service agreement, Millville Town Hall will review the MVFC financials when they are completed in November.

The other major debate was over a $1,000 holiday dinner. With Councilwoman Susan Brewer absent, the council was split on whether the Town would pay for spouses or guests to attend a Christmas party with Town employees and town council members. The council will revisit the issue when five members are present, or when the holidays are closer.

The tax rate in Millville’s budget is again unchanged, at 50 cents per $100 of assessed value as assessed by Sussex County, along with the 1.5 percent realty transfer tax and 2 percent gross rental receipt tax for residential and commercial properties.

Millville’s good news is that general revenue ($861,841) is about the same as last year, coming in about 27 percent above general and administration expenses ($631,811). The additional revenue ($230,030) will be earmarked as contingency funding for future needs.

The biggest sources of general income for the Town are property taxes, at $400,000; building permits, at $238,250 (less than budgeted in 2017, although actual revenue nearly doubled that amount); gross rental receipts tax, at $80,000; building permit plan reviews, at $47,000; and Realtor, rental and business licenses, at $38,000.

The biggest general expenses are $338,000 for payroll; $29,500 for health insurance; $28,000 for payroll taxes; $20,000 for the IRA match; $20,400 for buildings/grounds landscaping and maintenance, not including the new town park; $30,000 for AECOM professional services, plus their $18,000 for the comprehensive plan update; $25,000 for the town solicitor; $13,250 for accounting and auditing; and $13,500 for computer repair, software upgrades, the copier and similar expenses.

Town hall also needs a new sign. Although they’re seeking less expensive options, the initial $7,000 estimates led Town Manager Debbie Botchie to commiserate with business owners who have had to change their signage.

A well-aged pot of transfer taxes will pay for the Dukes Drive park, with $3 million earmarked for design, engineering, lighting equipment, trees and more.

Transfer taxes are restricted revenue, and $448,500 is expected this year. Expenses from restricted revenue total $101,335, which includes nearly doubling the police budget, to $85,000, for contracting with the Delaware State Police, as Millville does not have its own police force. Millville also anticipates receiving a $12,500 Sussex County grant for police services.

In other recent Millville news:

• Building guidelines have loosened up in the Residential (R) zoning district. Building Official Eric Evans said that Ordinance 17-06 will create more “realistic” requirements for a “municipal-style” home. Lots can be smaller and houses taller. Plus, boats and camp travel trailers can be stored.

The change doesn’t affect a huge number of properties, officials said, since most houses in Millville are actually zoned in the Residential Planned Community (RPPC) or Master Planned Community (MPC) zones. Only about 60 acres are zoned Residential, of which only 30 percent isn’t developed yet, said Kyle Gulbronson of AECOM.

The maximum building height was increased from 35 to 42 feet, and the minimum lot area decreased from 10,000 to 7,500 square feet. Because of that, buildings may be denser: principal building and accessory buildings maximum coverage per lot has increased from 30 to 45 percent.

Also, minimum lot frontage decreased from 75 to 60 feet; side setbacks decreased from 10 to 7 feet; and front setbacks decreased from 40 to 25 feet.

The full text of Ordinance 17-06 is available at town hall and online at

• In Bishop’s Landing, the Phase 5 final site plan was revised from 53 townhomes to 45 townhomes, some wider than previously planned.

Changes included stormwater management, replacing plans for a volleyball court with a community garden and addition of a temporary construction entrance at Burbage Road.

The town council’s next workshop is Tuesday, May 23, at 7 p.m.