Sussex County proposes $185.8 million budget


Sussex County 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 on Tuesday, May 21, unveiled the proposed $185.8 million budget for Fiscal Year 2020 to fund various local services and future projects.

The proposed budget keeps County 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.

“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;

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

• 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.

Council President Michael H. Vincent praised the budget team, including Mr. Lawson, Finance Director Gina A. Jennings, and Deputy Finance Director Kathy L. Roth, for crafting a plan that keeps taxes and fees in check while planning for the future. “The budget covers the essential day-to-day needs while looking forward to the ever-growing demands in our community,” President Vincent said. “This is proof you can plan smartly and not break the bank.”

County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal during its 10 a.m. meeting Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 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.