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January 8, 2008     Cape Gazette
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January 8, 2008

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10 - CAPE GAZETTE - Tuesday, January 8 - Thursday, January 10, 2008 Rehoboth Beach revenues rise $800,000 from 2005-06 By Ryan Mavity Cape Gazette staff Despite a drop in the real estate market, the financial situation of the city of Rehoboth Beach is as rock solid as football commenta- tor Jimmy Johnson's hair. Carl Hogan of Barbacane, Thornton and Company, the audit- ing fh-m hired by the city, gave a report for the fiscal year between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2007. Hogan said Rehoboth had $2.7 million in government funds, or surplus funds leftover, an increase of $805,000 from the prior year. Hogan said the increase was due to greater-than-anticipated rev- Issues Continued from page 1 gage crisis and the possibility of adding a sports lottery. Booth said lawmakers have been forced to enter the wind- farm debate. "With all of the money that has been invested by Bluewater Wind, we could see some sort of legal action if this issue is not addressed by the General Assembly," he said. 'q'here are several options out there, including putting it back out to bid." Although Bluewater Wind was selected to build a wind farm off the Delaware coast, the contract has not been awarded and the process is in limbo. Booth said although the issue is complicated, there is no doubt the public supports wind power as an alternative energy source. "The public has spoken but there are cost factors involved. You can't make small businesses and resi- dents pay for something that may benefit everyone else." Bunting said there are still many questions that need to be answered. "Some feel the figures are over inflated," he said. "I can't make an intelligent decision until I see all the figures." "There is a lot of misinforma- tion out there," Schwartzkopf said. "It's time for legislators to get educated." Bunting said this session's budget will be stretched and he doesn't expect to see any new taxes during an election year. "Everything boils around the budget. You need to have money to have programs and I think we will be watching spending even closer than before," he said. "Many programs and any new programs will probably not get off the ground." Bunting said many state agen- cies, particularly those in the human services, will feel the pinch. Bunting, who has served in the House and Senate, said it is dis- couraging at times what it addressed. Last year, legislation was passed to clean up boats in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and enact a statewide general fishing license for all waters. While he admits there is noth- ing wrong with those measures, there are bigger-picture issues that need serious attention - in particular the health of the Inland Bays. "Millions of fish and other aquatic life are killed each year because of the use of bay water by the Indian River power plant," he said. "And contaminants are released into the canal on a daily basis by Rehoboth Beach. Sometimes I think we are chasing after the wrong thing." Schwartzkopf said he would cosponsor a bill to crack down on the practice of insurance compa- nies dropping "homeowners after they make claims. "There are some companies out there that when homeowners call and ask questions they count that as a claim," he said. "And when they make one or two claims they are dropped. A lot of people in the coastal region are getting dropped." Following up on the recent delay in releasing Cape Henlopen School District administrative salaries, Bunting is prepared to introduce legislation for full dis- closure annually of all public employees' salaries. Wages, over- time and expenses would be avail- able to the public via the internet. "I don't think people have any concept the amount of overtime being paid at places like the Delaware Psychiatric Center," he said. Schwartzkopf, who was the lone House member to oppose H.B. 40 last year, is standing up against similar legislation this year aimed at setting deadlines on presenting the budget to the pub- lic and legislature. One of the bills would change the state constitution to make it law to present the budget three days prior to the end of the ses- sion. "I totally disagree with that," Schwartzkopf said. "There is no need to set deadlines on something we can't meet." Traditionally, the budget and Bond Bill are presented on or near the final day of the session. Booth said state lawmakers might be pulled into the mortgage foreclosure debate. "We may have to end up helping some people out like we did two years ago with emergency fuel assistance," he said. Bunting said there are "rum- blings" among legislators con- cernlng the Sussex County land- use plan. The plan has come under fire from state agencies, especial- ly over the county's base agricul- tural-residential zoning of two houses per acre as too relaxed. "But with a Democrat-con- trolled Senate and Democrat-con- trolled council, you don't normal- ly get the two to conflict," he said. Other legislation recently intro- duced or leftover from last session includes the following: • H.B. 42, sponsored by Booth, Schwartzkopf, Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, and Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, is still on the ready list, and Booth said it might stay there during the current session. The bill would add two at-large members to the Sussex County Council. "The Senate has rejected the bill twice so I don't really see the purpose of pushing it again," he said. • H.B. 280, sponsored by Bunting and Simpson, would require all counties to comply (Sussex County currently does not comply) with the Delaware Department of Transportation updated subdivision regulations. Sussex County has less stringent subdivision regulations relating to road construction. • H.B. 17, sponsored by Schwartzkopf and Bunting, would eliminate the Sussex County sher- iff and deputies from the defini- tion of a law enforcement officer. • H.B. 37, which was tabled last July, would create a task force to study the feasibility of beer sales in grocery stores. Contact Ron MacArthur at ronm @ capeg azette, com. enues. Hogan also said the city had $22 million in proprietary funds, essentially water and sewer taxes, that resulted from a 34 per- cent increase in water and sewer rates and impact fees collected from new hotels and restaurants. The city's expenditures totaled $14.6 million, Hogan said, with total revenue at $15.4 million, up $800,000 from the previous fiscal year. Hogan said the biggest thing going on in the city is a myriad of capital improvement projects that include the Lake Gerar bridge replacement, the Lynch well proj- ect, the city municipal complex project and future Boardwalk refurbishment. City Manager Greg Ferrese said some of the money used to pay for the latter two projects could come from the remainder of $6 million the city borrowed from Citizen's Bank to pay for Streetscape and the Lake Gerar bridge. Ferrese said he would likely recommend to the commis- sioners at the first upcoming budget meeting that the city use the remaining $3.6 million or so left in the loan to help pay for the upcoming projects. The city has until March 1 to get a 4.78 percent fixed interest rate on the loan. 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