Sussex Co. Council approves $294.1M for FY 2023 budget

SUSSEX COUNTY, Del. – Sussex County Council approved its budget for Fiscal Year 2023, pegging it at $294.1 million.

That brings the overall budget up by more than $16 million over the annual budget proposed last year. When adjusted for amended expenses, county officials say it also brings it down about $1.6 million from that same number. County officials say increase operational costs, continued economic uncertainty, and more demand for public services are just some of the factor driving the budget. The budget is bolstered by things like property taxes, realty transfer taxes, sewer service fees, building permit fees, and document recording fees.

While taxes won’t increase, some fees will. That includes $24 more annually for sewer, and $35 more yearly for those who get water through public utilities. Jennings says those increases match how the national economy is doing.

“With inflation going up, as you could imagine, we would have to increase those fees in order to cover those costs. Particularly in the Dewey area, they have some maintenance on their water tower, and the sewer has some reoccurring maintenance that we need to stay on top of,” said county Finance Director, Gina Jennings. “We know as well that a lot of [our income] is realty transfer tax, which is dependent on how the economy is doing. So, I do budget conservatively, and only budget the percentage of what we expect to bring in for that year.”

County officials say much of that funding is being made available through the American Rescue Plan Act, and the booming housing market. “The biggest cost that we saw increases in is our public safety. Public safety is supported through realty transfer tax, which is helping with the housing boom. Also, with those ARPA funds, we can use those to help with public safety,” said Jennings.

The budget is also allowing the county to hire eight additional public safety personnel: four paramedics and four dispatchers. Plus, local fire companies will get an additional $800,000. $7.3 million will pay for the final phase of construction of a new public safety complex. The county’s contract with the state for supplemental state police troopers will also see an increase of $200,000.

“Our population continues to increase. So, it is important for us to look at public safety, and be able to increase public safety staffing, as well as helping our fire companies,” said Jennings.

Other highlights of the budget include $72.7 million for wastewater infrastructure, and $7.4 million for open space conservation.

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