Rehoboth Beach commissioners got their first look at the city manager’s $22 million budget proposal for next year, which includes almost $2 million in general fund capital improvements. Among improvements not included is a new, accessible playground at Lake Gerar.
During a budget meeting Jan. 6, City Arborist Liz Lingo said the tot lot at Lake Gerar is 25 to 30 years old, making it the city’s oldest playground. It’s well beyond its expected life span and there’s structural rust, she said.
Lingo said the estimated cost to replace the playground is $250,000. She said a new playground must adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, or the city would open itself up to discrimination lawsuits.
The budget year begins April 1, and City Manager Sharon Lynn introduced a balanced FY20/21 budget during a meeting Jan. 6. The budget includes 2 percent raises for city staff, except police officers, who bargained for a 3.5 percent increase.
Most of the budget discussion was about the $4.2 million in capital improvements, all of which are related to infrastructure. As proposed for the general fund, there’s $1.4 million in streets and $440,000 in parking.
The proposed budget calls for $2.3 million in wastewater and water system capital improvements. These improvements are being funded by increased rates implemented last year.
Chief Financial Officer Burt Dukes said the city’s utility funds are not available to balance the general fund. He said the federal government paid for a significant majority of installing the wastewater treatment plant, which meant, he said, loans were paid off fairly quickly.
Moving forward, Dukes said, the city was going to be on the hook for capital improvements because those federal monies are no longer available.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi pointed out there were no capital improvements to better the experience of visitors. She said she would like to see strong consideration for a shuttle service.
Other capital improvement projects not funded are new convention center chairs, renovation of the Boardwalk restroom at Delaware Avenue, recycling containers on the Boardwalk, or streetscaping on Baltimore and Wilmington avenues.
The proposed budget calls for $26.5 million in revenue, which Lynn and Dukes said was intentionally conservative. Commissioners appear to be in a less conservative mood.
Commissioner Susan Gay pointed out that only $500,000 was proposed as revenue from the recently instituted hotel tax of 3 percent. Last year, the city projected $890,000 in revenue from a full year.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi said she would like to see the city sell its property at 84 Kent St., which is currently under lease to Kiwanis Club of Coastal Delaware. She estimated the city could raise up to $800,000 from selling the property.
The commissioners also brought up the city’s $1 million in excess revenue from the 2019 parking season. Dukes advised the commissioners that it’s not good to get in the habit of spending excess revenues.
As proposed, the city would make roughly $200,000 in contributions to city organizations – $100,000 for the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company; $50,000 for Rehoboth Beach Main Street; $28,000 for the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society; and $15,000 for Rehoboth Beach Public Library.
Commissioners have scheduled the second of six budget meetings for 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 17, in the commissioners room of city hall, 229 Rehoboth Ave.