While Lewes’ summer season was unlike any other in recent memory, the city’s finances have remained stable.
Finance Officer Ellen Lorraine McCabe reported Oct. 12 that the city is seeing a greater surplus through first six months of the fiscal year than in the previous year.
That is despite revenue from parking meters, parking violations, fines, building permits, and use of the city dock and marina being down more than $150,000. Although parking revenue was down due to lower visitation, the city also adjusted parking hours in the downtown area to offer free parking every morning until noon in an attempt to boost visitation to local businesses.
Making up the difference are a $54,000 increase in tax revenue related to quarterly supplemental assessments and a $186,000 increase in money received from the BPW in lieu of a franchise fee – the city receives 5 percent of BPW’s adjusted revenues.
City officials also cut expenses early in the pandemic in an attempt to soften the blow. Year-to-date expenses are down 4 percent, McCabe reported. The biggest reductions come from the streets and maintenance department (down $89,000) and consulting fees (down $64,000). They also managed to lower expenses for parking enforcement, lifeguards, city manager’s office, finance department, and fees related to parks and recreation, and the marina and city dock. Much of those reductions are lower personnel costs.
McCabe noted the city is actively seeking reimbursement for more than $27,000 in COVID-related expenses and about $23,000 in storm-damage expenses. She said she’s confident those will be reimbursed, which would put the city in a better financial position.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, McCabe said she believes the city can keep its head above water.
“I think we’ll be coming in pretty stable,” she said.
The city’s budget runs April 1 to March 31.
Near-perfect weather in September and October has also helped recovery, McCabe said, noting that September’s parking meter revenue was higher in 2020 than 2019. City Manager Ann Marie Townshend suspects the state’s mandate to limit capacity at Cape Henlopen State Park may have resulted in more use of Lewes’ beach parking lots.
Deputy Mayor Bonnie Osler said she’s also heard that rentals are trending higher in September and October than in typical years. If accurate, she said, that could bump the city’s revenue from its gross rental receipts tax.