Sussex realty transfer tax could be record in 2022

Officials eye plan to distribute $12 million surplus to towns, purchase open space
February 4, 2022

Sussex County's anticipated realty transfer tax revenue for fiscal year 2022 could be a record setter, thanks to a housing construction boom.

Gina Jennings, county chief operating officer and director of finance, said the county had budgeted $24.9 million in revenue from the tax this fiscal year, but the anticipated revenue is $36.9 million. That total would be the highest amount collected since the record of $36.3 million in 2005.

And county officials have a plan to spend the $12 million surplus. Sussex County Council introduced an ordinance during its Jan. 25 meeting to amend the current operating budget, which includes the surplus in realty transfer taxes.

Under the proposed ordinance, $6.44 million of the surplus would be allocated to cities and towns, and $5.56 million would go to land acquisition to create open space.

Jennings said money to municipalities would be allocated using a formula based on population and budget, with a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $500,000.

She said the funds can be used for public safety services; economic development programs approved by Bill Pfaff, county economic development director; public works and infrastructure; and capital projects.

Based on the formula, the following amounts would be awarded to area municipalities: Lewes, $500,000; Rehoboth Beach, $500,000; Milton, $310,043; Henlopen Acres, $100,000; Dewey Beach, $142,992; Ellendale, $100,000; Milford, $500,000; Millsboro, $469,354; Slaughter Beach, $100,000; and Milford, $500,000. Municipalities receiving more than $100,000 would have to provide a dollar-for-dollar match.

A public hearing on the ordinance will take place Tuesday, March 1.

Realty transfer taxes, the county's largest source of income at 32 percent of the budget, 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 state tax is levied on the sale of all property, with 2.5 percent going to the state and 1.5 percent to the counties.

Last year, council voted to spend nearly $10 million in surplus transfer taxes, which included $1 million for land acquisition for future emergency medical services stations, $5.375 million for 22 county ambulance/fire departments, and $3 million for the Excite Sussex Loan Fund, the county's economic development loan program.



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