Sussex eyes realty transfer tax revenue increase

Land for paramedic stations, ambulances, economic fund among possible expenditures
February 12, 2021

An increase in realty transfer tax revenue during the first seven months of the fiscal year could allow Sussex County officials to spend an additional $11.4 million on public safety and economic development measures.

In addition, the county could proceed with the expenditure of $8 million already approved for supplemental expenditures.

At its Feb. 9 meeting, Sussex County Council introduced an ordinance to allow for a budget amendment. Before the funds can be allocated, council must conduct a public hearing and vote on the ordinance.

This fiscal year, the county budgeted $22.8 million in revenue from realty transfer taxes for the entire year. So far in seven months, the county has collected $32.5 million.

Sussex County Finance Director Gina Jennings proposed the following expenditures:

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

• $5.375 million for 22 county ambulance/fire departments

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

Under the proposal, 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.

Jennings said $5.375 million would be turned over to the foundation for the companies to access when needed.

In addition to a proposed $3 million contribution to the Excite Fund, Discover Bank would 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.

The Excite program has a good track record so far, Jennings said. The initial fund of $4 million, including county and Discover Bank money, was accessed by four businesses, resulting in 131 full-time jobs either retained or created.

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.

Supplemental funds uses would include $1 million for economic development, $2 million for the grant-in-aid fund, including $1 million to purchase open space, and $4 million for capital projects, including funds for the new Western Sussex Business Park in Seaford.

Among the numerous supplemental expenditures are fencing at the airport; purchase of equipment, supplies and books in various departments; training; airport terminal upgrades; library building improvements; and a new information technology position for cybersecurity.


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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