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May 19, 2017     Cape Gazette
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Real Estate and Land Use DIRECTION. Acquisition & Disposition Land Use & Zoning Matters New Project Creation & Development Financing Real Estate Disputes Wilmington – Downtown | Wilmington – West | Newark | Dover | Georgetown | Rehoboth Beach www.morrisjames.com 302.888.6800 ATTORNEYS AT LAW Our attorneys apply a business mindset to help you maximize the value of your real estate investment. With 14 real estate and land use lawyers in our six Delaware offices, we can help you navigate the complexities of today’s real estate market, no matter where the road may lead you. Cape Gazette NEWS FRIDAY, MAY 19 - MONDAY, MAY 22, 2017 21 Sussex officials propose $143 million budget Increased cost for state police concerns council By Ron MacArthur ronm@capegazette.com Sussex County officials plan to spend more for public safety and economic development, and for major improvements to waste- water treatment facilities in a proposed $143 million fiscal year 2018 budget. On May 16, county staff pre- sented the budget to county council, which has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal at 10 a.m., Tuesday, June 13, in the county administration building, 2 The Circle, Georgetown. The proposed budget will re- quire no increase in property taxes and will not increase ser- vice charges for county water and sewer. The budget presentation was not without controversy. Through its contract with the county, Delaware State Police is asking for a 30-percent increase in funding, the first major change in a contract to pay for additional troopers in the county, a program dating back to 1995. Instead of paying half the cost of 44 additional troopers at $2.25 million, which has been the pol- icy in the past, the county would pay the full cost of 22 additional troopers at nearly $3 million, said Sussex County Finance Director Gina Jennings. The new contract would fund higher pay for lieutenants, ser- geants and other officers, as well as pay for overtime, special operations, benefits and shift differentials, costs the county has not paid in the past, Jennings said. The contract would continue to fund four fully outfitted patrol cars. Under the contract, DSP would guarantee 187 troopers assigned to Sussex County. “They are still guaranteeing that number, but we would be paying more because of the way they are allocating the costs,” Jennings said. Councilman Rob Arlett, R- Frankford, questioned the proposed contract. “The state is coming to us with a 30 per- cent increase without adding one additional police officer on the road,” he said. “I think we need more dialog. Sussex County's population has grown substantially over the past five to 10 years, and I'm not sure we are getting an increase in police protection to match that popula- tion.” Arlett said he blames the gov- ernor and legislators for the change and not Delaware State Police officials. Jennings said the change materialized after Gov. John Carney released his admin- istration's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget.   Realty transfer tax fuels budget More than half of every dollar collected by the county goes to public safety, which includes hir- ing extra state troopers, grants to local law enforcement, support for local fire and ambulance services and the county's EMS and emergency preparedness departments. The realty transfer tax con- tinues to be the county's main source of income at a projected $25 million in fiscal year 2017. In- come from the tax has risen each year since 2010. Building-related revenue in the county increased $1.1 million – 14 percent – in fiscal year 2017. The county collected nearly $17 million in property taxes in fiscal year 2017. The general fund portion of the budget is up nearly $14 mil- lion to $68.7 million and the general fund capital budget is $13.4 million, which includes projects such as improvements at the county's airport. Included in the budget are $10 million in additional contribu- tions to pension funds; a nearly $850,000 increase in public safety funds; $600,000 for economic development programs; and $5.5 million for the county's 11 in- dependent libraries, a $362,000 increase.   Big-ticket items in budget Among big-ticket items in the proposed budget are nearly $3.5 million for development of a new county business park; $1.1 million for a pilot program to expand broadband internet ser- vice to rural parts of the county; $2.9 million for additional Dela- ware State Police troopers, a proposed $800,000 increase; $15.4 million for the county's paramedic program; $3.6 million to support the county's local fire and ambulance services, a $98,000 increase; nearly $3 mil- lion for airport improvements; and $400,000 for a new mobile command unit. Sussex officials plan to spend $8 million in capital funding to begin phased, major upgrades at the South Coastal, Inland Bays and Wolfe Neck regional waste- water facilities to as much as double treatment capacity, as well as create interconnections with other public and private utilities to better manage loads during peak demand and wet seasons. Also in the budget is funding to increase around-the-clock para- medic coverage in the Seaford/ Blades area, as well as $950,000 to construct two new EMS sta- tions in the Seaford/Blades and Dagsboro districts. Included is an increase of $1.7 million in grant-in-aid funding, which includes – among many others – councilmanic, library, fire and ambulance, housing and local law enforcement grants. “This has been one of the more difficult budgets to write because of the uncertainty, particularly as it relates to the state budget,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson. “However, I believe what we are recommending here is a good-faith effort to balance the expectations of the county and the services it provides while being sensitive to our shared financial reality.” The proposed budget does not raise property tax rates, sewer and water service charges, or building permit fees. However, modest increases are proposed for one-time sewer connections, plan review, and marriage bureau fees. The public can comment in person during the June 13 hear- ing, or submit comments through email to budget@sussexcoun- tyde.gov. County council must adopt a budget by June 30. To view a copy of the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget, as well as the accompanying budget pre- sentation, go to sussexcountyde. gov/county-budget. See budget summary at: capegazette.com »