Sussex budget down $13 million

Plan includes funds for projects, human services, public safety, staff and infrastructure
June 21, 2024

Sussex County Council, following a June 18 public hearing, voted to approve the fiscal year $265.8 million budget that begins Monday, July 1.

County property taxes remain unchanged for another year, but the budget does include various fee increases, as well as rate changes for public utility users – $10 more annually for sewer, $15 additional yearly on unmetered water.

The overall budget is down some $13 million from last year, or 4.6%, as capital spending slows and federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act package cycles out.

Mix of income streams

The budget is supported by a mix of income streams, including $17.8 million in property taxes, $35 million in realty transfer taxes, sewer service fees, building permit fees, document recording fees and other fees for services.

The realty transfer tax is the largest revenue producer for the county, which comprises 35% of all revenue. It’s followed by property taxes at 22%.

Finance Director Gina Jennings said building revenue reached a peak in 2021-22. This year, building permits are down 9% and, she said, building-related revenue is down $1.1 million over the previous year to $12 million. It peaked in 2022 at nearly $20 million.

Revenue funds many local services, including paramedics and 911 dispatchers, public wastewater treatment, building inspections and public libraries, among other services.

Budget highlights

Total revenue is $99 million. The recorder of deeds generates more than $4 million of that revenue followed by the Sheriff’s Office at $1 million and register of wills at $1.9 million.

• $17 million in general fund capital projects

• $52.5 million for wastewater infrastructure, including new sewer mains, increased treatment capacity, and other upgrades to the county’s utility systems

• $7.4 million to preserve open space and farmland that otherwise could be developed

• Increased funding, from $4.1 million to $4.6 million, for the county’s contract with the State of Delaware for supplemental state police troopers assigned to Sussex County

• $3.4 million to pay for the continuing countywide reassessment of all properties

• $5.7 million for local fire companies and ambulance squads to help with operational costs, including paid EMT salaries; and increased funding, from $800,000 to $900,00, for municipalities providing local law enforcement services

• $2.6 million for the design, planning and construction of paramedic stations in the Dewey Beach, Lincoln, Millsboro and Milton areas.

The budget also includes more than $10 million in state and federal grants, including $7.3 million in paramedic grants from the state.

Total revenue of $99 million also includes building-related fees, recorder of deeds, marriage bureau, register of wills and sheriff’s revenue.

The county’s approved pay plan for non-union employees ranges from $18 per hour for entry-level Grade 1 workers up to $45 per hour for Grade 20 workers.

The salary scale ranges from $77,000 for Grade E1 workers to $186,000 for Grade E19 employees.

Other budget highlights:

• $10.3 million for health insurance, an increase of 10%

• $3.3 million for pensioners’ health insurance

• $12.2 million for public safety (44% of the grant-in-aid budget)

• $3 million for independent libraries

• $2.1 million for community assistance

• $2.6 million EXCITE Sussex loan program

• $1.5 million for the Trap Pond water park

• $417,000 to Sussex County Land Trust

• $1.8 million for housing assistance

• $225,000 for human service grants

• $225,000 for councilmanic and youth grants.

Copies of the FY 2025 budget, as well as the accompanying budget presentation, can be downloaded from the county website at


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