Sussex council approves budget amendment

Increase of $20.2 million in realty transfer taxes creates excess revenue
March 12, 2021

Sussex County Council has passed an ordinance amending the fiscal year 2021 budget allow for the expenditure of increased revenue in the county realty transfer tax. And on top of funds for new ambulances, land for paramedic stations and funds for economic development, council approved a one-time increase in how much money is allocated to 22 local law enforcement agencies in the county.

At the request of District 5 Councilman John Rieley, a one-time addition of $5,000 will be added to the $30,000 already budgeted for each municipal police department. Twenty-one departments will receive an additional $5,000 while four part-time departments will receive $2,500.

As of Jan. 3, the county had collected $33.3 million in realty transfer taxes compared to the budgeted amount of $13.1 million for an excess of $20.2 million. Of that total, $8 million will be used for budgeted supplemental expenditures, leaving $12.2 million, according to Sussex County Finance Director Gina Jennings.

The funds will be used as follows:

• $1 million for land acquisition for future emergency medical services stations

• $5.4 million for 22 county ambulance/fire departments

• $3 million for Excite Sussex Loan Fund, the county's economic development loan program.

• $115,000 for additional law enforcement grants.

This fiscal year, the county budgeted $22.8 million in revenue from realty transfer taxes for the entire year.

Jennings said each fire and ambulance company in the county would have an account set up at the Delaware Community Foundation with funds to purchase an ambulance. The fund would be $250,000 for 21 companies, with Carlisle Fire Co. in Milford getting $125,000 because it covers Sussex and Kent counties.

In addition to a proposed $3 million contribution to the county's Excite Fund, Discover Bank will match the county contribution 3-to-1 with an additional $9 million, for a total of $12 million.

Under the program, Jennings said, a $12,000 low-interest loan at 3.44 percent would be available to existing county businesses with 10 to 500 employees. The companies must demonstrate the funds will create or retain permanent, full-time jobs in Sussex County.

Jennings said $1 million would be used to purchase land for future paramedic stations in an ongoing plan to get out of lease arrangements and own stations outright. She said the county leases space for three of its nine stations.

Jennings also said $8 million would be used for supplemental expenditures already approved in the budget.


What is the realty transfer tax?

Realty transfer taxes, the county's largest source of income, can be spent for capital and operating costs for public safety services, economic development programs, public works capital projects and improvements, infrastructure projects and improvements, and debt reduction.

The 4 percent tax is levied on the sale of all property, with 2.5 percent going to the state and 1.5 percent to the counties.

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