Lewes adopts $12.1 million budget

Residents and visitors will now pay convenience fees
March 17, 2023

Lewes Mayor and City Council voted unanimously March 13 to approve the fiscal year 2024 budget to the tune of $12.1 million. It’s nearly a 5% reduction from the amended FY 2023 budget.

A final budget meeting the morning of March 13 finalized what officials described as a financially responsible budget and ended what they felt was an open, transparent process. 

During a March 10 meeting, Mayor Andrew Williams said he was curious about the transfer tax fund figure. The figure in the initial FY 2023 was $3.5 million, with that number lower in FY 2024. However, officials amended the FY 2023 budget down to $2.8 million for the transfer tax fund in the fall.

“I looked at the transferred tax that we're budgeting for this year, and it looks aggressive,” Williams said March 10. “I assume you’re assuming Waterfront Preserve and Olde Town are going to start moving forward.”

A closer look into the transfer tax fund, which contains reserves, taxes and investments, shows officials believed they were going to collect $2 million in transfer taxes before needing to adjust downward to $1.1 million last year. Financial Officer Ellen Lorraine McCabe told Williams that she believes $1.5 million in transfer taxes can be collected in FY 2024 because with one month left to go, the city has surpassed the amended $1.1 million and should be closer to collecting $1.5 million before the year ends. 

City Manager Ann Marie Townshend added that she is starting to see real construction in the developments that have been approved.

“In addition to the resale of houses, which we've seen, Olde Town at White’s Pond has started work [and] we're going to have Dutchman's Harvest,” she said March 10.

Rolling over from the adopted FY 2023 budget is $689,144 in transfer tax fund reserves that were budgeted and not spent. Officials have agreed to withdraw another $450,670, bringing the total up to just over $1.1 million. 

Capital projects are paid for through the transfer tax fund, and two of the larger line items are repairs to the Fisher-Martin House ($330,000) and replacement of the HVAC system in the police department ($250,000). Recently, mayor and city council allowed a bid for repairs at Fisher-Martin House to expire due to concerns about the price. Officials believe the new HVAC system will be closer to $500,000. Williams is confident adjustments can be made to either item to ensure police officers are not without air conditioning during the summer months. 

The city was able to reduce the general fund by nearly 14%, which is a reflection of American Rescue Plan Act funds expiring. About $8.2 million is budgeted for the general fund in FY 2024. A majority of the funding will go toward operations ($2 million), the Lewes Police Department ($1.9 million) and maintenance ($1.3 million). To balance the budget, $518,290 will be pulled from prior year reserves.

The cost of parking has not gone up, but parking customers will begin footing the bill for the convenience fee attached to credit card transactions. Previously, the fee, built into the cost of parking, was paid for by the city. Officials are attaching a 2.95% fee to all card transactions, not just parking.

“The city was paying close to $100,000 in credit card fees,” Williams said. “We were recouping some of that, but not all of it.”

The mayor encouraged residents and visitors to pay with a check or cash if they wished to avoid paying the fee. Deputy Mayor Khalil Saliba said this is a way to shed light on what he believes are unjustified increases in fees from credit card companies. Speaking with owners in the hospitality industry, Saliba said what used to be 1% to 2% has doubled and sometimes tripled recently. He said card companies cite added security features.

Officials said they believe there will be amendments made to the budget.


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