Carper, Mills discuss pandemic effect on Rehoboth

Parking, hotel and rental tax revenue taking a hit
August 21, 2020

Rehoboth Beach has been hard hit financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor-elect Stan Mills told U.S. Sen. Tom Carper during his visit to the Nation’s Summer Capital Aug. 19.

The town had a robust $26 million budget before the pandemic struck, Mills said, but revenues are way down. With only a month until free parking resumes, Mills predicted about a $2.25 million loss in parking revenue for the year.

Mills said some visitors gripe about the cost of parking, but they need to be mindful that parking revenue, which represents about 25 percent of the budget, ensures clean beaches and necessary town services, such as a planned expansion of public restrooms on the Boardwalk.

“That was a victim of a lack of revenue,” Mills said.

By October, Mills said, the town will have a better idea how hard-hit revenues are, and will need to prioritize the budget regarding which projects can resume and which have to be postponed.

In addition to revenue loss, Mills said the town has also spent about $65,000 to deal with the pandemic, including installing barriers, allowing for expansion of seating, signage, and extra sanitizing of public restrooms and City Hall.

“It will probably be $100,000 by the end of the year,” Mills said. “That’s a significant number for us.”

Some businesses are at about 90 percent of last year’s revenue, while others are down as low as 30 percent, Mills said. Leases are renewed at the end of summer, so the town will know then which businesses didn’t survive, he said, citing a recent Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce estimate that 30-40 percent of downtown businesses could close as a result of the pandemic.

When Carper asked for an update on the Rehoboth ocean outfall project, Mills smiled, “Everything is flowing fine.”

Carper said the visit was a breath of fresh air after numerous virtual meetings over the past several months.

“I’m glad to be able to come out of hiding and see our peeps,” he said.

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